Consumer Products

Trick or treat

How US mall-based retailer Spirit Halloween wants to own the spookiest day of the year.
October 1, 2012

It’s that time of year again. As North America prepares to embrace the annual end of October rite—when children dress up and go on a hunt for candy—seasonal retailer Spirit Halloween has geared up its operations. It’s on a mission to become the predominate Halloween retailer on the continent.

Founded in 1983 in Northern California, the speciality retailer enjoyed steady growth throughout the ’80s and ’90s and eventually caught the attention of mall-based retailer, Spencer Gifts, which acquired the company in 1999.

“When I first saw Spirit Halloween, its market potential as a category killer was really clear,” says Steven Silverstein, Spencer’s Gifts CEO and Spirit Halloween CEO and president.

Today, Spirit Halloween operates about 1,000 locations in the US with an additional 50 in Canada. Each store is between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet, and outlets are spread  out in big-box strip malls across the country. The stores generally open at the beginning of September and close one or two days after Halloween on October 31.

“We are a virtual retailer for 10 months and a bricks-and-mortar retailer for two months every year,” says Silverstein,  referring to Spirit Halloween’s e-commerce site (www.spirithalloween.com). “Our promise is to give the customer the biggest, brightest and deepest assortment of Halloween goods. Our passion for Halloween separates us from everyone else.”

The Halloween business continues to grow, according to Silverstein. Although as a private company, Spirit Halloween is not obliged to share financial information, he says the chain’s been expanding by roughly 100 stores per year, indicating the growth of the Halloween market in general.

“It’s SKU-intensive,” says Silverstein, adding that the main driving category are costumes, accessories and housewears. “We want to have a very broad offering.”

It only makes sense that as a Halloween-specific retailer, Spirit Halloween concentrates on the kids market. “Our commitment to kids is deep,” he says. “We are very focused on developing and building our kids assortments. The kids get deeply involved and engaged in the store experience.”

Approximately 80% of Spirit Halloween’s offerings are private-label, and the retailer has especially focused on producing its own décor line. “Every year we come up with an entirely new assortment of specific items that focus on home décor and party items,” he says. “We work to develop unique products.”

In terms of licensed goods, Silverstein says that he is keen on stocking the properties that drive traffic and is also open to working with licensors to develop exclusive items. “We are always interested in new ways to deliver Halloween,” he says. “Last year we had exclusive lines of Disney Princess costumes and we have taken that into the infant and toddler category as well.”

Interestingly, the one Halloween accessory you won’t find at the store is exactly what some kids think the holiday is all about—candy. “That is considered more of a convenience purchase,” he says. “You don’t come to us to buy your motor oil and cornflakes and also pick up something for Halloween. Our store offers an authentic Halloween experience.”

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at garyrusak@gmail.com


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