You are currently viewing Do you think the Christmas season is starting too early?  Try Halloween in July

Do you think the Christmas season is starting too early? Try Halloween in July

KAthleen McKeon, a 36-year-old mother of two, goes all out for Halloween. She has the best-dressed house in the neighborhood. She strings together enough lights to make cheaters squint, inflates a giant cat for the roof, and sets up a spider to jump on anyone who dares approach the front door. Inside, each room is furnished with life-size statues – of witches, ghosts and a harvester of souls – that dance and move to the beat of the music.

“We do a little more decorating than most people in the neighborhood,” McKeon said.

For McKeon, the holidays begin in July, months before she hangs up decorations. It was then that she resumed her work at Spirit Halloween. Her unflinching enthusiasm for spooky holidays makes her something of a poster child for the retailer, which she joined more than a decade ago, first as a store clerk and now as a manager. district manager overseeing three stores in New Jersey. She is one of a stable of 35,000 seasonal workers who will occupy 1,450 stores this year – many of whom return, in droves, year after year.

Even as many Americans try to survive the summer heat wave, Spirit Halloween stores are starting to pop up in cities across the country. “We’re at full throttle right now,” said Steven Silverstein, CEO of Spirit Halloween. Forbes early August. “We’re in the middle of hiring, we’re in the middle of building stores, and we’re in the middle of building merchandise.”

Halloween is spooky and profitable, behind only Christmas in holiday consumer spending. Last year, Americans paid a record $10 billion for Halloween costumes, candy and decorations, up 40% from the previous decade, according to the National Retail Federation. And this despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Spirit Halloween is the largest channel devoted to the holidays. Its parent company, which also owns the Spencer Gifts chain of stores, known for selling lava lamps, Nirvana t-shirts and farting machines, had sales of $1.7 billion a year. last year, up from $1.1 billion a year earlier, according to Moody’s.

The seasonal retailer got its start in 1983, when a store owner in California decided to swap his normal inventory of women’s clothing for Halloween costumes. The outfits sold out so fast that he decided to expand, eventually opening 60 temporary Halloween locations in the Southwest. In 1999, he agreed to sell to the owner of Spencer Gifts, which had 700 stores in malls.

The company changed hands several times over the next few years and in 2003 Silverstein was named CEO. A retail executive with a background at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, he had just been fired as president of Linens N’ Things, where he had been for more than a decade, and needed a job. “Spencer appealed to my funny bone,” said Silverstein, who grew up in a wealthy family in Miami, where his father was a cardiologist and his mother worked for an ad agency. He occupied the front desk of his grandparents’ Daytona Beach motel during school vacations.

He inherited the little Spirit Halloween, which he quickly set out to grow. He found he could take advantage of empty storefronts left by other retailers, which owners were only too happy to fill, even if only for a few months. The locations were identified on Spirit’s website by the retailer who was there before they fell on hard times and disappeared, as “old Sears”, “old Beals” and “old Pier 1 “. Last year, he took over the original Barney’s in midtown Manhattan, filling the once-glamorous department store frequented by city socialites with polyester witch costumes, pumpkins and fog machines. In some cities, she settled in closed churches.


Spirit Halloween will open more than 1,400 temporary stores this year – up from 130 stores two decades ago – which disappear after the clock strikes midnight.

It takes about ten days to open a place, then it’s off to the races. Spirit Halloween has about two months to realize all of its revenue, more than 90% of which comes from in-store purchases. “I liken it somewhere between a military operation and halftime at the Super Bowl. How did they do that? said Silverstein.

So as not to send last-minute shoppers away empty-handed, the retailer is aiming to be fully stocked until the end of business on October 31. It helps that a lot of his costumes – think witches, ghosts, and goblins – are evergreen, allowing him to pack up to 40% of his inventory at the end of each season, rather than to reduce it. This material is placed in nearby temporary storage units, a cheaper alternative to transportation to and from a large distribution center.

Despite the current labor shortage in the country, a high rate of returning employees helped Spirit maintain its staffed outlets during its one and only season. In the stores that McKeon manages, half of its employees have already worked there. Many are teenagers, stay-at-home moms, or teachers, looking to earn a little extra cash, often for the upcoming holiday season. A woman returns every year to earn enough money to pay her property taxes, which are a frightening fact of life in New Jersey.

Flexible shifts are part of the draw. Only have time to work two hours, two days a week? Its good. McKeon, for example, has only worked at the retailer for five months in each of the past 12 years. The rest of the year, she volunteers full-time at her children’s school, where she organizes field trips and manages the library. In the summer, she and her husband have another seasonal business: operating the town’s ice cream truck.

“People are return-oriented,” Silverstein said. “It’s one of our secrets.”

To stay competitive with bigger chains like Target and Walmart, Spirit raised salaries last year and made returning former employees more lucrative. The 30% employee discount at Spirit doesn’t hurt either, especially for Halloween enthusiasts like McKeon.

“They’ve proven to be nimble in recruiting and securing optimal leases,” said Moody’s analyst Joe Tringali. “If it was easy, everyone would do it. This serves as a barrier to entry.


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