Shook to the Core: This Is Where Your Local Spirit Halloween Store Comes From
Besides trick-or-treating, Halloween has become synonymous with the thousands of Spirit superstores that sweep the nation for 8 weeks a year, only to retreat into obscurity again until Labor Day weekend inevitably rolls around once more.
Between then and November 1, Spirit Halloween stores are unavoidable, occupying any and every large retail space that was once home to a big box store and filling them to the brim with every kind of costume, decoration, and candy one could ever need for a successful Halloween celebration. The stores have become so popular at this point that there’s an entire genre of memes dedicated to this particularly odd costume shop chain.
Where some costumeries struggle to maintain year-round sales, Spirit Halloween has seemingly cracked the code by offering in-store shopping during a very limited time frame, focusing instead on online revenue during their off-season.
As a subsidiary of Spencer Gifts since 1999 (yes, that Spencer Gifts), Spirit already had a major company backing them financially while they established the reputation they have now. But as they continue to represent a major share of all Halloween sales, roughly 16% of a $10.1 billion dollar revenue stream as of 2021, Spirit has turned itself into a successful, profitable, recognizable brand that can stand on its own two feet separate from its parent company.
So how does it all work? The most important aspect of Spirit’s business model involves finding and securing the retail space they need to simultaneously launch nearly 2,000 stores nationwide that are broken down just as quickly as they’re set up. Spirit even has a real estate division led by Frank Pacera, who recently appeared on the Kimco Realty Blog’s podcast to discuss the process behind opening and closing every Spirit location.
“Pretty much November 1, the minute our door is closed, we are — or actually, before our doors close — we are prepping for the next season,” he said. “We literally are, 12 months out of the year, getting ready for this holiday… Right after we close our doors, we have a field operation of people who are based throughout the country, and they basically scout their entire markets that they’re responsible for on a regular basis.”
As more big box stores pivot to online sales or close their doors entirely, the management and real estate companies responsible for renting out these large retail spaces — Spirit, in particular, targets spaces anywhere between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet — have actually started approaching Spirit about using the spaces they have available.
“Some money is better than no money,” said Neil Stern, senior partner at a real estate consulting firm called McMillanDoolittle. “There’s a lot of [vacant big-box stores] out there that are otherwise sitting vacant right now. Obviously, it’s not as good as a permanent lease, but it’s better than nothing. There’s relatively little downside.”
Long story short, when economic downturns like the one we’re currently experiencing force large corporations to minimize their retail overhead, that acts as a net positive for seasonal companies like Spirit Halloween. More inflation, more debt, and less in-person retail shopping for companies like Best Buy or Babies R Us is quite literally Spirit’s bread and butter.
When comparing Spirit’s seasonal revenue to other year-round businesses, the numbers more or less explain how the Halloween superstore is able to stay in business year after year. Spirit estimates that they bring in roughly $90 million dollars yearly from online sales, which are available 365 days a year.
However, the eight weeks of in-store shopping brought that number to more than $1 billion in 2021. By comparison, year-round shopping mall staples like Claire’s and Hot Topic generated just $1.4 billion and $761 million, respectively. With that in mind, it seems like Spirit Halloween is here to stay, especially as Americans spend more and more on the holiday every year.