NZ shops pull clown costumes from the shelves
Several costume stores across New Zealand have taken clown outfits off the shelves just before Halloween in response to a recent string of creepy clown incidents.
Earlier this month, a clown was reported scaring children at a Porirua school, while police in Christchurch are still looking for a suspect after a trio of robbers, including one in a creepy clown mask, took around $5000 in tobacco from a petrol station.
The trend has been linked to a spate of threats and violence across the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
The Wear It Out costume shop in Tauranga has hidden its selection of clown masks behind the counter as a precaution.
Wannabes Costume Hire in the east Auckland suburb of Howick says it is not actively advertising the costumes.
"If someone were to ask for a clown costume to specifically freak people out, we would not supply it to them, and we do have CCTV, so if there was anyone hiring clown costumes for nefarious reasons, we would be able to ID them to the police," says Wannabes manager Laura Lunjevich.
The horror industry has also taken measures in response to the creepy clown incidents.
Christchurch's Fear NZ, which runs events for charity and calls itself the "biggest in clown horror events in New Zealand", says it has stopped all hires.
"We have banned people wearing costumes to our events and we have put warnings in place for people coming to our events," says Fear NZ boss Rory Foley.
"We are New Zealand's biggest horror company, and it's a worry that people start taking their own scares and end up hurting or end up hurt.
"However, we don't want to ruin our events for a few idiots."
Trade Me says it has seen an increase in searches and sales while clown news stories have grabbed the headlines.
Spokesman Logan Mudge says while ordinarily sales for clown costumes or masks are very low, sales are up 700 percent this month on the same time last month.
Searches for "clown costume" and "clown mask" have jumped 750 percent, with nearly 5000 searches in the past week alone.
"These are two of our fastest rising searches of the last week. Usually we see 10 to 50 searches tops."
The website has no plan to pull down clown listings from the site and it has had no complaints so far.
"We have a feeling we know what the 'It' Halloween costume will be this year."