Customers are digging through boxes of hats and browsing racks full of masks, wigs and bizarre accessories so that they can become someone else — or something else — for one night this year.

But instead of buying a pre-packaged costume from a Halloween store, many Halloween revelers are turning to thrift stores for a more affordable, green and original look, said Julie Dover, Goodwill SOLAC chief operating officer.

For Goodwill, and many thrift stores, it’s not Christmas but Halloween that brings in the most customers. Dover said Goodwill thrift store sales are about 10%-15% higher in October than in average months.

In addition to finding an affordable costume at Goodwill, Dover said shopping at their stores helps a good cause. Money raised at the thrift shops goes towards Goodwill’s job training and career service programs.

“Funds from the sale of donated goods stay in the community and help someone get to work,” she said.

At Goodwill, which has four Long Beach locations, there are costume shops inside each store where customers can find one-of-a-kind items with a low price tag.

October definitely is the best-selling month at Out of the Closet Thrift Store (3500 E. PCH), said group store manager Michael Saunders. He estimates that business more than doubles as people shop for costumes.

Out of the Closet customers can purchase pre-packaged costumes or go green by putting something used to good use. The store has become known for its detailed window displays during the Halloween season, which include several macabre vignettes.

“Yeah, this year we’ve got some little Victorian twins, a doll killer and Tippy fighting off the birds …” Saunders said.

A way to showcase what customers can do to make their own creative costumes, Saunders said the displays also are designed to attract people to the store, where 98¢ of every dollar benefits the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

At the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop on Second Street in Belmont Shore, store manager Lynn Gill said she sells a lot of costumes as well as Halloween decorations that are donated but usually in very good condition. By mid-October, most everything on the Halloween shelf is sold out.

“We sell out of our Halloween and Thanksgiving stuff very early,” she said. “We had a miniature haunted house for sale this year that was just adorable… And, people come here when they want to put together a unique costume — we had someone here yesterday who was going to a ‘Caddyshack’ movie party and needed help finding the right outfit.”

Gill said the best months for the business are October through December and she is already starting to get ready for the store’s Christmas boutique.

Ashleigh Ruhl can be reached at

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