The Spirit Halloween Takeover


A “Spirit Halloween” in Mamaroneck, image courtesy of Lohud

Sam Kennedy, Managing Editor

Every autumn, a swarm of orange banners descend upon strip malls across the country. This occupying army takes hold over every vacant building it can find, plastering pictures of trendy Halloween costumes over each bare window. What used to be Montage Furniture & Rugs in Hartsdale became Spirit Halloween, along with tens of other stores across the state and hundreds nationwide (approximately 1,450 according to the company’s website). The question is, how?

The Spirit Halloween store rollout begins, according to the company, “as early as July.” But the process of securing retail space begins much earlier than this. Frank Pacera, the company’s Senior Director of Real Estate, stated publicly “Pretty much November 1, the minute our door is closed…we are prepping for the next season.” Those under Pacera work year-round, scouting locations in an increasingly-competitive real estate market. They connect with various landlords who, as Pacera said, “see the potential for additional income on a space that’s not making any money currently.” These buildings often once housed recently-closed businesses, from local storefronts such as the previously mentioned Montage to much larger fallen titans of retail like Toys R Us (in fact, the toy retailer’s location on Central Park Avenue was a Spirit for a few seasons after closing). As the company signs more leases, the Spirit Halloween empire expands.

By the time July rolls around, the company has begun to transform each individual location into a proper store. Hiring notices are sent out online and plastered on the walls of each storefront. The store begins to staff up in August, and new hires go through a week-long training program before working through the Halloween season. The company relies heavily on three key demographics to stay in business. The first one is people doing last-minute shopping for the season, whether they are buying decorations the week of the holiday or quickly putting together costumes for a party. The second demographic is made up of die-hard Halloween aficionados. These people view the store as more of an experience than anything else, an opportunity to bask in the spooky and campy atmosphere of the store. The third demographic consists of social media users. These people often see videos of the store online and are lured by a sense of discovery, wanting to see what they themselves can find on the shelves and share on their own page. The stores continue to rake in money until they close a few days after Halloween. Around that time, leases expire, and the company stores leftover inventory for the following season. Thus, the cycle continues.

As more retail giants crumble, Spirit Halloween continues to grow. It seems that every year the company claims more and more space as its own. It gobbles up empty retail space and enlists a legion of seasonal workers, doing as much business as it can until the holiday passes. With a dedicated online presence supporting the business, it seems likely Spirit Halloween will return to haunt shopping malls for years to come.