Brenda Jaros, director of marketing for Goodwilll of SWPA, sports Maleficent garb during the organization's Halloween kick-off event. Photo by Kristy Locklin.

Local Goodwill stores are serious about scaring up business this fall.

For the first time in the organization’s 99-year history, 29 of the 34 Goodwill locations in Southwestern Pennsylvania will boast “Halloween Bootiques.” These designated areas within each thrift store are stocked with costumes, makeup, accessories and Halloween decorations.

But while these special displays are new, it seems savvy Halloween shoppers in Pittsburgh were already in on the secret that Goodwill is the place to scare up a great costume inexpensively.

In a given month, Goodwill of SWPA often generates between $2 million and $2.5 million in sales. In recent years, those numbers have jumped by 20 percent around Halloween.

“The months of September and October have historically been the largest sales months for Goodwill,” says Andrew Marano, Goodwill SWPA’s vice president of donated goods retail. “We’ve noticed that Halloween itself is becoming a bigger and bigger thing as far as costumes. There’s a lot of competition out there, so we have to make ourselves more appealing.”

So on Sept. 15, area stores kicked off the spooky season with face painting, games, DJs and bands, photo booths, fashion shows, raffles, refreshments and discounts. Many employees dressed up in donated duds and helped customers find the perfect ensemble.

Goodwill BOOtiques are loaded with costumes and accessories. Photo by Kristy Locklin.

Butler residents Brittney Hesident and Joelle Thorhauer stopped by the Goodwill on Freedom Road in Cranberry Township to find the perfect getup for a party. The theme of the Halloween shindig they’ll both be attending is “Witches, Wizards and Warlocks,” but Thornhauer joked that she wanted to show up as a hot dog.

Lo and behold, she found a $10 wiener costume on the rack, along with a mustard outfit for her husband to wear.

“Honestly,” she said, “if you went to Spirit Halloween, this would be $50.”

We’re told that Goodwill officials began preparing for Halloween 2018 on Nov. 1 of last year, storing away donated costumes and other seasonal items and attending Halloween trade shows to discover hot trends in the industry.

In addition to gently used clothing and accessories, shoppers will find new gear in popular categories such as Day of the Dead, unicorns and steampunk style, plus hats and wigs and accessories under $5.

David Tobiczyk, vice president of marketing and development at Goodwill SWPA, said the organization isn’t trying to be Spirit Halloween or to copy other creepy retailers that cater exclusively to All Hallows’ Eve.

“We’re more of a do-it-yourself costume stop,” he said. “We want to focus on the people who really enjoy the whole experience of piecing together their own costumes.”

Thinking of going shopping? Nearly all Pittsburgh area Goodwills are participating, with the exception of North Versailles, Heidelberg, Wexford, North Side and Whitehall.

Goodwill is also catering to four-legged trick-or-treaters with a range of pet costumes. The agency is partnering with Humane Animal Rescue for a pet adoption event on Saturday, Sept. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Goodwill located at 3 Urbano Way in Robinson Township.

After snapping pictures of their dolled up dog or cat that day, patrons can post photos to Instagram and be entered to win prizes. Don’t forget to mention @goodwillswpa and @harsaveslives, along with the hashtag #bestfriendBOOtique.

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.