Over Labor Day Weekend, 65,000 pop-culture fans attended Dragon Con in Atlanta, billed as “the largest convention focused on science fiction & fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe.” The event’s parade each year down Peachtree Avenue is one of the highlights. Spectators line the route to see the convention participants’ elaborate cosplay costumes that depict their favorite pop-culture characters. Atlanta Magazine counted 102 characters from “Stranger Things,” 55 folks in Mandalorian armor, 10 stormtroopers, 17 characters from Ted Lasso, and 24 costumes inspired by Marvel’s film “Moon Knight” – “including a handful of impressively crafted Khonshu skulls and more than a few Sailor Moon Knights” – just to name a few.
Most of the costumes were handmade by their wearers, and that’s where fine-art and craft stores come in: if cosplayers are going to purchase a long list of creative materials for their costumes anyway, they might as well buy them from you.
“I compel retailers in the art materials/craft supplies industry to learn as much about this market as they can,” says Brian Buell, global director of sales and marketing for Logan Graphic Products Inc. “There are so many opportunities. I’ve never seen an industry so impacted by social media. By boosting and tagging your posts properly, you can reach influencers around the world.”
Cosplayers can spend hundreds of dollars on the costumes they make, depending on the detail and how many different materials it takes to create it, reports ATA, a full-service creative marketing and advertising firm. “While most cosplayers will get multiple wears out of their costumes, the desire (and sometimes pressure) to build bigger and better costumes means a growing investment in tools and materials over the years,” ATA adds.
According to data from Portland, Oregon-based firm Allied Market Research, the cosplay market is set to grow from $4.62 billion in 2020 to $23 billion by 2030.
Just a few of the costume materials cosplayers purchase
according to an informational brochure from Logan Graphics
Straps and buckles
The sharpest tools in your drawer
Logan Graphic Products in Illinois, best known as a manufacturer of mat-cutting tools and equipment for nearly 50 years, entered the cosplay market in 2019. Brian became aware of the market when he started fielding calls Logan received from small, independent cosplay-materials stores. “TNT Cosplay Supplies in Texas and Red Moon Cosplay Solutions in Canada were interested in carrying our Foamwerks line,” he explains. “They said the handheld cutting tools in the line are perfect for cutting EVA foam, the material cosplayers use to make shields, swords and other parts of their warrior costumes.”
Sales to stores in the market quickly grew; enough to warrant cosplay-specific branding. Logan’s 10-tool Cos-Play line was born.
“We launched during the pandemic, which was unfortunate,” Brian explains. In addition to introducing the new line at traditional art & craft tradeshows in 2020, he also planned to exhibit to consumers at the New York Comic Con at the Javits Center in the fall. With more than 150,000 participants, it’s one of the largest in the country. Thanks to COVID, none of the conventions materialized and no one was making costumes. NAMTA attendees in Orlando saw the Cos-Play tools in person for the first time this year.
Comic Con and Dragon Con are just two of the many cosplay conventions – large and small – held annually in the U.S. The International Comic Con in San Diego hosts 135,000 fans, while the anime show Con+Art+Delete in December is expected to attract 5,000 participants to its Chicago venue. Conventions are even more popular overseas. More than 250,000 fans of cosplay attend the Japan Expo in Paris ever year, and in Japan, where manga and anime are big business, cosplay is a massive cultural phenomenon.
Artistic skill development
In London, at the annual MCM Comic Con Event, “dressing up as a favorite character is becoming more than just a hobby to many people,” explains Katryn Furmston, senior lecturer in the product design department of Nottingham Trent University. “It’s the creativity of cosplay that really excites me,” she wrote in an article on The Conversation. “Cosplay is giving (mainly young) people a new-found creative outlet. Many will have researched the properties of cosplay materials to the point where they’ve become real masters of those materials. Creative skills such as sketching and design development also become the norm.
“Some of the costumes you see at events are among the most imaginative you will see on stage or screen,” she adds, “so if you think cosplay is just about dressing up in sexy outfits, you are mistaken. Cosplay has grown up. Today it’s an art, an inclusive hobby, and a creative pursuit.”
Key Cosplay Stats
from ATA advertising agency in Akron, Ohio
64 percent of cosplayers are female.
60 percent of cosplayers are between the ages of 23 and 39.
64 percent of cosplay makers attend three or more fan events/conventions per year.
About 33 percent of them have been making costumes for three to five years. 25 percent have been making them for more than a decade.
42.9 percent create one or two new costumers per year.
On average, 32 percent of cosplayers spend $101 to $200 per costume. 36 percent say they spend $201 to $400 on their most expensive costumes while nearly 22 percent say it’s closer to $401 to $600.