Setting an MOQ standard and automating steps keep production steady.

Reeling from the labor shortage, Halloween mask and costume suppliers in China are taking diverse actions to keep output and delivery terms within normal.

In Fujian and Guangdong provinces, where the scarcity is widespread, companies are reluctant to accept either extremely large or small orders.

With manpower deficit at hand, bulk manufacture is a challenge to complete. Low-volume purchases are manageable but yield slim margins. They also require the same amount of time, outlay and human resources in sample making as big quantities.

When mass orders have to be made, most costume suppliers farm out stitching to local sewing shops, and mask specialists tap artists to handle drawing and painting. Doing so, however, may affect quality since not all subcontractors are highly skillful and may lack workers themselves.

A solution of companies is to set the MOQ between 1,000 and 3,000 pieces until the labor crisis subsides. Likewise, they are adjusting the standard turnaround times. Sampling will be stretched from 10 to 15 days, while the actual production of a 3,000-piece order, which usually takes 15 to 30 days, gets an extra 30 days.

Another way of addressing the problem is by preparing blanks in advance. When a new order comes, the preformed masks simply have to be trimmed and decorated per specifications, therefore saving time and effort. But since the customization process goes through a series of buyer coordination and revisions, some makers have shifted to in-house designs to have better cost and production control.

At least half of the Halloween mask suppliers interviewed are moving toward this direction. In the wholesale costumes segment, a lot of companies now rely on automatic machinery more than manual work.

Jiangsu province-based Leadtex Clothing plans to purchase high-end sewing machines in Japan this year. It has 200 sets of advanced stitching equipment and a CAD system.

Generally, the impact of the labor shortage is confined in Guangdong and Fujian.

Buyers may opt to go inland, and source masks and costumes from Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.

Product trends

Although traditional vampire and ghoul outfits still dominate exports, superhero and scary but sexy designs are among the latest Halloween party costumes from China.

At Ningbo Welly Intl Ltd, the lady vampire-in-miniskirt ensemble with a black silky coat is one of the best-sellers.

Very few makers are producing movie-themed costumes, as obtaining the exclusive right is costly. Some, however, are releasing versions with few detail variations to circumvent possible copyright violations.

Most suppliers are focusing on unique models rather than durability, since products are worn on rare occasions only.

The trend in the mask category is toward high craftsmanship and creative mix of color.

The use of materials such as feather, sequins and multiple layers add product value. Pure polyester is the choice material of many manufacturers.


Industry demographics

There are about 1,500 makers and 900 traders in mainland China that have regular production of Halloween masks and costumes.

Because the industry is seasonal, the majority of companies also offer nightclub dresses, headwear, sports apparel and Christmas outfits. Typically, Halloween products account for 10 to 20 percent of their annual output.

Locally owned enterprises dominate, comprising four-fifths of the supplier base. Those with Taiwan, Hong Kong or Western financial backing make up the rest.

Companies that have overseas ties are stronger in terms of conceptualizing modern designs, as they are more attuned to the foreign market. Mainland-owned counterparts, on the other hand, bank on their price advantage. They can quote 10 percent lower than foreign-invested players.


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