View Full Version : Why aren't there more vendors?

01-01-2008, 03:25 PM
Larry had some posts in a thread not long ago about the need for more haunt industry vendors.

So the question is, why aren't there more? What do you think is stopping new vendors?

I ask as I have heard rumors of vendors who won't be exhibiting at TW, and some vendors who may not be exhibiting, anywhere, anymore.

So in a time when there is a need for new vendors, props, products, etc. why is this happening? Why when there seems to be a need for new vendors does the vendor pool seem to be shrinking?


Gore Galore
01-01-2008, 06:04 PM
Being a Vendor might give me some insight into this question.
Being a small business is not an easy task when buyers seem to carry a Walmart mentality. Everyone wants some thing for nothing.

It is very difficult for all vendors to make a living in a hostile environment. I have told so many people if you are getting into this business to get rich you are doomed for failure.
You really have to be in this industry because you love it either as a vendor or as a haunt owner. It is hard in both arenas.

the other thing is it used to be pretty easy for new vendors to come in because the technology was fairly low tech. But now a days most vendors are working with high tech equipment from automated machinery to the most expensive in high tech materials and knowing how to use them. From CNC machines, to lazer cutting and everything in between.

Also, most haunters are very informed and are learning to do many things themselves, For example, a few years ago you could learn how to do corpsified corpses and generate some level of income, but now every haunter can and does do it themselves.

Furthermore, it is more expensive to get into business now adays and if you don't start turning some type of profit quick you won't be able to hold out long. And customers don't buy from new companies their first year for good reason. Potential for failure.

So, I am sure there are many more reasons but I hope this sheds a little light on the subject.

01-02-2008, 05:23 AM
VERY WELL SAID Kevin, The WalMART statement holds TRUE! as well as everything else...... As a New vendor I have encountered all of the above as a obstacle, and honestly if not for my LOVE OF THE GAME, I would have backed out after my first year. It is a hard thing to get into, Everything that can be done, has been done, Hard to have that totally original Idea, and who wants to buy the same ole thing. One thing that I can Add now that I am a OLD vendor, is that if you wantr to see more NEW vendors on the Floor, Give them a chance, give them some business......... I heard alot last year that people dont do business with first year vendors....well honestly all that does is secures the fact they wont be second year vendors........

01-02-2008, 06:15 AM
thank god walmart doesnt make haunt commercials......:)

01-02-2008, 07:47 AM
From a haunters perspective, I'm a bit surprised by the notion that haunters would not buy from new companies, I certainly would. I guess it depends on what they are bringing to the table and what I need. When Unit 70 and Lafond fx first came out haunters scrambled to either buy their displays at the show and place orders. At one time Distortions and Scarefactory were new vendors, but what they brought to the table ensured sales to many haunters, (i.e. the Distortions electric chair guy everyone seems to have had).
Another reason why most of the above companies are doing well is because they started off in the haunt business but now have diversified their talents into other areas of the entertainment industry selling now non-scary animations and and scenic elements to Amusement parks, FEC's, whoever might be interested. Little Spider has switched gears and look to be going after the scenic contracter 3D foam prop building area while still retaining their haunt roots. I would think this is the best way to survive. Haunting is a tough business and for every haunt that is successful there are many more that are not. And in the haunting business there always seems to be many new people who see the lines on the last Saturday night and think that all haunters are millionaires. Out of greed and not true love for haunting they move to open a haunt and ultimately fail and lose lots of $$$. I think you see this more in the haunted attraction industry than any other industry, people looking to make a fast buck on their percieved idea that it's easy, and easy money. This effects YOU the vendors since the opportunity to develop a relationship and trust is never achieved as they are not around long enough for that to happen.
Then there is the matter of companies doing the"bait and switch" showcasing superior product at the show or in catalogs and then what you receive looks cheesy, even that still goes on today. And even some companies that shall remain nameless have difficulty filling orders in a timely manner and apparantly do not own a telephone, or have an employee around to answer one. Gore Galore and Bodybagging and all the vendors who actively participate on this board all seem to be great companies with great reputations and products, which is why they are active on public boards. You guys are easy to contact which shows, to me, that you stand behind yor product and value your customers. Keep doing what you're doing, developing new products that people like, answer your phone and emails, and take care of your customers and you'll continue to grow. Companies are still shooting themselves in the foot with their actions and people will be looking for new vendors to supply their needs, it might as well be YOU!


01-02-2008, 03:36 PM
I would agree with Kevin and Rob, the haunt industry is not as easy as most would think. Just like the avg Joe driving past a haunted house in late October and seeing hundreds of people in line thinking “Wow at $15 a head they must be making a fortune for working only one month a year….” We all know what BS that is right!

Haunt vendors have all of the same costs every other business has but we target a very small market. I get a lot of people coming to me for advice about getting into the business and I try not to discourage them but try and tell them the facts and ask them a few basic questions.

If your product is focused at haunted attractions then what is the total number you think you will sell?

Is there another product out there that is like yours? Is it a new idea, a knock off, or what…

Is it easy to knock off? Hell, I see people on the boards trying to figure out how to make my stuff every day. I get emails asking how specific questions after I see them on the boards…. I’ve had people steal items from the shows, or rip stuff open after hours and even right in front of my helpers. I have to say, some of you haunters have some hugh balls…

Have you ever run a small business, or what are your skill sets?

What margin are you going to make vs. all of your costs. Do you know what it costs to run a small business?

Business start up fees, web site, design, maintenance, advertising, (the adds themselves), product pictures, product videos, brochures, price lists, manuals, CC processing fees, CPA’s, employees, business cards, raw materials, stock, R & D costs, banner, other signage, mannequins, booth costs, lights, power, air, carpet, booth shirts & hats, packing materials, shipping, your time, THE LIST GOES ON AND ON….

If you’re making $10 on an item and even if you sell one to every haunt in the country that may not even cover your costs to show at Transworld.

If you have ever taken any marking classes most returns on advertising etc is only a couple percent. We all hope that does not hold true in the haunt industry or we would all be dead.

How many haunts are really out there that buy stuff??? I think that is a good question. Recently I’ve seen Larry say he has 1700 in the HW haunt finder. Are all of those still going to be active in 2008? How many are pro haunts vs home haunts. Many say there are a lot more haunts out there, I’ve seen numbers like 3,000 to 6,000 tossed around. Personally I think those numbers are bull. I’ve been to a lot of shows like TW, HC, MHC, etc.. and it is all most always the same haunts/people that are active at these events.

SE Michigan has been called Haunt Capital USA because of the number of haunts we have which is over 70. Even if you took that number and multiplied the number of states you don’t get that many.

Bottom line, small margin X small volume – high costs = Haunt Vendor. Not a great equation… but it is fun as hell and I love it!!!

01-02-2008, 06:00 PM
I'm not in the industry but have run small businesses. It's tough.

You buy or can make something for $100 and can sell it for $500 so you should be cleaning up, right? But how few and far between are those sales? And what is the total market? If there is only the possibility of realistically selling (to haunted attractions) 200 and you build/buy 300 because you got a good deal or overanticipated the demand, then you are in trouble.

I think the real potential market here, and I could very well be wrong about this, are 1) lower-end props to home haunters (a big market) than they can get locally; and 2) high quality animatronics/props/masks etc. to the pros. There seems to be plenty of competition in the middle.

Any thoughts on that?

Jim Warfield
01-03-2008, 12:14 AM
With world economics and politics over the last few years who could ever say anymore that any business is predictable?
There are a few products that seem to be over priced to me , but they seem to last forever (predictably) and they pay for themselves this way with the work or income their features and productivity turn out.
So if someone gets into the haunt business, has a really good year after starting out then spends $30,000 on new props, will this spent money ever draw enough customers of and by themselves to equate spending $30,000?
I guess if it worked this way there would be alot of haunts spending money like this all the time then, wouldn't there be?
Any supplers to a trade could be alot stronger in sales and profit if the people they supply were making alot more profit.
Maybe it all starts at the bottom and has to work it's way up?

Gore Galore
01-03-2008, 07:15 AM

I wanted to post a response last evening but realized my post might be somewhat offensive to some home haunters.
It looks like there would be room for a supplier to low end home haunts. But it really isn't the case.
It seems like there would but home haunters are honestly either too innovative or stingy or maybe we should call it thrifty. I don't want to really suggest which one.
However, I have overheard a conversation between a whole group of home haunters talking about how cool hot glue stick blood was. And they went about trying to figure out how to go in together to buy 1 box of Glue sticks for $15. Then continue with the logic of trying to figure out how to make a mold of a glue stick and then figure out how to make their own. Now that is simply reinventing the wheel. I just laughed.
Now, I can respect and appreciate the ingenuity of this idea, but to waste a month trying to figure out how to do it. Spending more money on materials and time than what it would cost just to buy the glue sticks in bulk. That is both self defeating and makes it really impossible for a home haunt supplier to make any type of living. And this logic is quite prevalent in the home haunt market.

We have an awesome Home haunt market product called the "Corpse Kit" and we have sold hundreds over the course of the years but we would not be able to survive if this was the kind of product we specialized in.
But their are some out there, and they are great vendors. And Home Haunters should support them or else they will loose those too.

It is no different than in any city. If something cool comes to town and you want it to stick around you have to support it. You have to help by word of mouth and help by being a buyer. If you don't it won't survive. You are killing it by non-participation.
The city we live in is a nation wide test market. Everything comes here and if it doesn't do very well it closes. That is how it works in every industry.

And the high end market is no different except for high end vendors the cost up front is a whole lot more.
Do, you have any idea how much time it takes to sculpt 1 piece and how much it costs to mold each piece. For example, I am sculpting a piece right now that requires 12 independent sculptures. Some of the sculpt will be molded in plaster and some will be molded in silicone. But my personal invested time is close to a month and a half. and to mold it will take another 2 weeks just for the plaster molds and another 2 weeks for the silicone case molds. How valuable is my time? And how much money is going into the molds. Close to $1000.00 just in silicone.
And we don't use that much silicone. Most companies just use silicone for molds now and each mold costs about $400 to $700 just in silicone. How many molds does Scarefactory, Unit 70, Ghostride, Gore Galore Have?
And this is just 1 relevant fact relating to being a vendor.
It just gets more complicated from here.

Now, I am certainly not complaining. I am just stating facts.
But here is my logic.
I am not trying to get rich. I just want to make a living that is not hand to mouth and provide my workers with a stable life. I want everybody to be happy and I want to do innovative products that wow my customers and their patrons, and have fun doing it.
That is all that I can ask for.

And hopefully this post will not be taken as an insult by anyone.

01-03-2008, 09:07 AM
Hey Kevin,

I don’t think your post could be taken as offensive at all. You are merely stating the obvious. But reflecting on the nature of most home haunters, which BTW make up more than half of our business, I can see several viable reasons why many go the ‘do it yourself’ route. Most, of course, simply don’t have the budget to lay out larger sums of cash for high end products. Their haunts do not bring in any income for them, so laying out a chunk of change for an item is not an option. And quite a few of these same folks just have the pure desire to try their hand at various projects. Whether they have the knowledge or background to build them, it’s more of a ‘thrill of the hunt’ situation. And, most of them are not working on a time schedule that a business has to maintain to keep their customers happy. To witness this first hand, all you have to do is watch folks during any ‘how to’ seminar or demo at the various conventions and gatherings. I’ve seen them take notes, use tape recorders, or even video tape them so they could go home and get their feet wet with a new project. Hell, I’ve seen you get swamped with people coming up after your demos at Ironstock each year with a barrage of questions. And that goes for pro haunters as well, if they have the time to deal with that segment of their haunt.

Personally, my main business is building custom ironwork. I’ve been doing that for over 40 years now, so I really do know about limited markets, and the pratfalls involved. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out on estimates only to hear “Wow, I had no idea it would cost so much. I could put a 2 X 4 up there for a railing a whole lot cheaper.” I used to get a bit aggravated about this, but these days I just tell them that, for them, a 2 X 4 would work just fine, rather than go through the motions of try to explain what they would end up with rather than go with the real deal. When we branched out into prop building back in ’99, thanks to your encouragement BTW, it was an easy move for me since I already had all the tooling and equipment in place, and an intense background in fabricating industrial mechanisms. But if I were new to the idea, and didn’t have a working shop in operation, the overall set up costs would be phenomenal. I’m certain that starting a new business and raking in the cash sounds very lucrative to a lot of people, but once you do all your homework, and then start crunching the REAL numbers, the idea will soon fade unless they have the cash and stamina to stay in the game.

Over 20 years ago I started home haunting. And as a lot of home haunters, there were very dumpsters I passed without scavenging for bits and pieces that I thought I could use or build something with. Five years ago we tackled our first pro event with a haunted trail, and got a real taste of our future. Did we make tons of money? Hell no, but that’s not why we did it. We, like many others, are simply ate up with the whole idea of scaring the bejesus out of people. Three years ago we moved indoors (the wife has this thing about indoor plumbing), and we haven’t looked back since. Fortunately we made enough money to pay our bills, but not much more. However, this didn’t deter us in any way. It only spurred the affliction to do again and again. Speaking for myself, and I think a good portion of the haunt world, we are attention seeking show offs that have to have some sort of outlet. It’s what we do. So….if anyone out there has the desire, the talent, and doesn’t have that “I can be rich beyond my wildest dreams” attitude, then maybe they can take the plunge into prop building. They just need to be prepared for the ride. It can be a bumpy road if you’re not prepared.


01-03-2008, 12:40 PM
Kevin, not offended at all. You're probably right. I've just been giving this some thought since this came up a couple of weeks ago and can't say that I have a handle on it yet.

Good points about the home haunters. Every now and then I come across a post about how to build a pneumatic cylinder out of a screen door opener, and I thnk: Why? You can get a much better, much safer one on ebay for less money, including shipping? Why would someone go to all that time and trouble to build one? And it can't have anything to do with tinkering or pride in doing it yourself. If that were so, why not cut down trees and mill your own 2X4s. The factory-built one is better, cheaper and safer.

I think a lot of it comes down to knowledge, about individual items and about what is available overall. I've always been pretty creative (but nothing compared to all of you on here) and like to think outside the box. One of the best ways I've found to breathe new life into a particular field or project is to use something from outside that field. My other big interest is photography and the best way to make money as a supplier in that industry is to gather up a bunch of products for a catalog, stick "great photo prop" in the descriptions, and mark them up a few hundred percent. The best way to get a good deal on props is to look in other catalogs. That doesn't really apply to haunting, of course, but I've always found it interesting that photographers would overpay so much for things they could get for a fraction of the price in local stores.

As has been said, haunting is a very limited field and you have to love it, whether you are a supplier/manufacturer or a haunter. I guess we're all lucky that so many do or we wouldn't have all this great stuff available. Thank you all for loving it!


01-03-2008, 01:54 PM
Hey, I hate to just post and say what everyone else has, but I have to agree with Kevin and everybody else. We have been at this for a couple years now and it has been anything but easy. The industry is picky and the statement abotu wanting something for nothing is DEAD ON!!! I once had a guy come up to me at a show we were doing to look at a small prop we were selling. It was essentially an air cannon disguised in a prop. We were asking $250. The guy offered me $50 for it. The valves we use alone cost $50. People think that we are making money hand over fist but they are very wrong. The volume is very low so even if you have a high mark-up you aren't going to rake it in.

The other thing Kevin said that is so accurate is that our time is worth something, but buyers seem to want to forget that too. Essentially two and a half months for him just to get to a place where he can START to produce a product...doesn't he have to account for that time in the price somehow?

There aren't that many vendors...but the industry is doing this to itself. Look at the catch 22 that buyers put vendors in...They won't buy unless prices are rock bottom AND they think it will last forever. You can't have it both ways. I used to sell electronics and I always told people that when you buy a $50 TV you get a $50 TV. It's the same here. If you buy cheap, expect to get cheap. If you pay more then you can expect more. I don't think this should be hard to understand.

I think BodyBagging makes a great point as well. If you want more vendors...support the new guys that come out. I can think of half a dozen companies that were new on the scene last year that I haven't heard anything out of since and I'm sure they went under. TW is VERY expensive for us. If you want to see more diversity we need your help to stay around and give it to you.

All that being said, we are looking very forward to TW and can't wait to see everyone and see all the new stuff out this year. Hope to see everyone there.

01-04-2008, 12:31 AM
I think (I know I always have an opinion) (LOL) but I do think we need MORE vendors to pick up the slack. Many vendors have dropped out of sight over the years, and more and more we see the same old haunts loading up with the same old vendors, and lets say overloading the same old vendors.

Right now haunted houses owners have so much cash they have the need to spend it and a lot of it. If we dont' get more vendors then we really need to start looking at a new tradeshow that hits in January to give all these vendors two more production months. I can tell you that will make all the diference.

Seriously we'll need to look at a new tradeshow event, probably no frills, just vendors and buyers, in January or we'll need more vendors one or the other.

The problem all vendors run into is hiring more people to get more work done, but when you do this you hire people who dont' know what they're doing.

At this point more and more haunters are building their haunts sooner rather than later and if an event was available sooner than later, those who have those year around locations, who work on their haunts sooner than later can order now and not later. This would all help!


01-04-2008, 09:38 AM
What we also need is for that convention in January to be affordable. There are alot of us vendors that can't afford to spend the money to do a tradeshow like Transworld. My company requires at least 3 booths, which is what we have at MHC this year, for us to front the money to do a show like transworld with 3 booths and transport and lodging and everything, we would have to charge such high prices to cover costs that no one would buy anything.

If the industry wants more vendors, customers need to also support all the vendors at the smaller shows, like MHC and hauntcon, so that we can build up to being TW vendors.

01-04-2008, 10:36 AM
It was my understanding that TW offered half booths, this was something that I convinced Gregg they needed to do last year to incubate new vendors. They didn't promote this very much but they did do it but now that Gregg is gone I don't know if they're still doing it or not.

For those of you who do NOT know Gregg is NO longer with Transworld.


01-04-2008, 11:49 AM
I really have to agree with Brian. For an event to be a viable trade show, it needs to be early in the year. With TW being in March, it usually works out great. It gives time for vendors to gear up with new pieces, and normally enough time for haunt owners to make purchases to insure deliver in time. (Depending on that company to follow through of course) But over the years TW has changed considerably. It seems to have leaned more toward the party direction and cut down on the prop end unfortunately. And then there’s the cost of displaying there for the vendors as Brian pointed out. For a small (but possibly more reliable) company to show their entire line, their prices would undoubtedly have to increase just to cover their costs. For a while it looked like Wil Shock’s Haunt X in California in February might have filled the bill, but regrettably it is no more. As many of you that have visited Ironstock know, we have a good collection of vendors that display. But Ironstock is definitely NOT a trade show. We make a point of inviting the smaller companies that cannot afford the high prices of showing at TW. And traditionally, most of the larger vendors are simply too covered up by June to make it profitable for them. By June, most haunt owners already have their plans set. Many have already started their build out. And most vendors are already working to fill orders and are normally covered up by then. There are exceptions though. My friend Kevin of Gore Galore fame hasn’t missed a show in the past eight years. But I’m pretty certain that Kevin has never come expecting to make sales. Even though he comes and shows some of his great pieces, and has even kicked in as a sponsor in the past, I’m pretty sure he comes simply to have fun and mingle with other haunters.

Maybe someone located near the center of the U.S. should take the reins on a show like this. Oh, say…..somewhere like St. Louis might be a good spot. Anybody know anyone in that area that could pull this off?

01-04-2008, 12:35 PM
A haunt coinvention in January in the middle of the country? Although that idea would be great on paper, the weather in January around here can be pretty scary unless you have lived in it for a while.

01-04-2008, 12:52 PM
Where we are here in Indiana is just about due east of St. Louis. Next week we are going to be in the 60s. Not a normal thing for us though. But I thank Al Gore for it.

01-04-2008, 01:44 PM
But that is the problem IMHO. The weather in January is just so fickle. I went to Transworld in Chicago about 6 years in a row. Never any problem with the snow, cold or ice. Then last year, Saturday night, boom a pretty good blizard and the roads were bad for even seasoned veterens who drive in it all the time. If a blizzard were to hit on a Friday and go into a Saturday, that could KILL attendance. Thats why I think a late Feb or early March makes more sense. It also gives everyone a chance to enjoy the holidays and Christmas parties. If you think about it, I think most vendors are pretty busy until Nov 1st, they can relax for a few weeks, then Turkey day hits, then maybe in early Dec they start to seriously think about the products they want to develop, then the insanity of Christmas and New Years for 10 days. January might be TOO early for the vendors.....
Anyhow, I am looking forward to seeing all kinds of fun things at the TRANSWORLD and looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones!


Gore Galore
01-04-2008, 03:25 PM
well, I don't know about most but we start sculpting for the next season on NOV 1st if not sooner. But it still takes till the Transworld show to accumulate enough new product to feel like we have enough to show.
Honestly, I think we have enough tradeshows.
I would prefer just one, but that is just me. the more time we spend going to tradeshows the less time we spend on filling orders or designing new product. Every tradeshow is money out of pocket with no guaratee of making it back
That might be different if all the shows brought similiar volumes of business.

I really think more tradeshows will just devide the market even more than it is.