You don’t have to know how to read a calendar to know that Halloween’s just around the corner. You just have to look at the empty storefronts in your neighborhood strip centers: When they turn into temporary Halloween City or Spirit Halloween stores, you know that the Great Pumpkin is ready to arrive.
My older son loves these stores. The more animatronic butlers ripping off their own heads the better. My younger son, who’s only 5? He always wants to go inside. But then he spends the entire time wrapped around my legs, at least until we get to the superhero section of the store; he’s considering a War Machine costume this year. And if you don’t know who that is, you don’t read enough Iron Man comic books.
I like the stores, too. But I can’t help but feel a little depressed at their arrival. After all, these Halloween stores show up and then disappear a month or so later, leaving behind the same empty storefront that they filled. And many of the Halloween City and Spirit stores in my city are filling the same empty storefronts year after year. That means one thing: These spaces aren’t attracting new tenants, a sign that the retail market still has a long way to go before recovery.
The halloween store closest to me, a Halloween City, has filled the same abandoned Circuit City store for the last three years. In fact, behind the sexy pirate costumes and styrofoam scythes you can still see giant Circuit City signs filled with the smiling faces of satisifed techhies.
It’s not surprising that the owners of these buildings are turning to temporary stores. They need all the rent they can get. And Halloween has become big business. The National Retail Federal predicts that a record-setting 170 million U.S. residents will celebrate Halloween in 2012.
And these folks will be buying more than just candy corn. The federation predicts that the average Halloween reveler will spend almost $80 on decorations, costumes and candy. Total spending? The federation predicts that U.S. consumers will spend a record $8 billion on the holiday this year.
My hope, though, is that next year Halloween City won’t be returning to that old Circuit City space. I’d rather see something a lot more permanent, though I’m sure my older son would disagree. He really does like those headless butlers.
– Dan Rafter