Courtesy Spirit Halloween
Kathleen McCann, a 36-year-old mother of two, goes all out for Halloween. He has the best-dressed house in the neighborhood. She puts up enough lights to make Trick-or-Treaters squint, hoists a giant cat to the ceiling, and stuns a spider to pounce on anyone who dares approach the front door. Inside, each room features life-size sculptures — of witches, ghosts, and ghost harvesters — that dance and move to the music.
“We do a little more than most on the block for decoration,” McCann said.
For McCon, the holidays begin in July, months before she puts up any decorations. She then returns to her job at Spirit Halloween. His unwavering enthusiasm for the spooky holidays makes him something of a poster child for the retailer he joined a decade ago, first as a store associate and now as a district manager overseeing three stores in New Jersey. We do it. He is among a group of 35,000 seasonal workers who will work in 1,450 stores this year – many of whom return en masse year after year.
Even as many Americans struggle to survive the summer heatwave, cities across the country are opening spirited Halloween stores. “We’re absolutely thrilled right now,” said Steven Silverstein, CEO of Spirit Halloween. forbes Beginning of August. “We’re in the middle of hiring, we’re in the middle of building stores, and we’re in the middle of making goods.”
Halloween is frighteningly profitable, trailing only Christmas in consumer holiday spending. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans earned a record $10 billion on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations last year, up 40% from a decade ago. That was despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Spirit is the largest series dedicated to the Halloween holiday. The parent company, which also owns the Spencer Gifts retail chain known for selling lava lamps, Nirvana teas and fart machines, reported sales of $1.7 billion last year, up from $1.1 billion a year earlier, according to Moody’s . was billions of dollars.
The seasonal retailer began in 1983 when a California store owner decided to trade his usual stock of women’s clothing for a Halloween costume. The getups sold out so quickly that they decided to expand, eventually opening 60 temporary Halloween locations across the South West. In 1999, he agreed to the sale to the owner of Spencer Gifts, which had 700 mall stores.
The company traded arms several times over the following years, and in 2003 Silverstein was hired as CEO. A retail manager at the Priests of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, he was recently fired as president of Linens N’ Things, where he worked for more than a decade, and needed a job. “Spencer addressed my weird bone,” said Silverstein, who grew up in a wealthy home in Miami where his father worked as a cardiologist and his mother worked for an advertising agency. He spent his school holidays with his grandfather. – Worked at the front desk at Grandma’s Daytona Beach Motel.
He inherited Little Spirit Halloween, which he wanted to grow quickly. He found he could take advantage of the empty storefronts vacated by other retailers, which landlords were happy to refill, even if it was only for a few months. The retailer identified locations on Spirit’s website that used to be there before hard times fell on them and disappeared, such as East Sears, East Beals and East Pier 1. Last year it acquired the original Barneys in Midtown Manhattan and filled a once-glamorous department store frequented by the city’s celebrities with polyester witch costumes, jack-o’-lanterns and smoke machines. In some cities she has settled in closed churches.
Spirit Halloween will open more than 1,400 temporary stores this year – up from 130 stores two decades ago – which will disappear after the clock strikes midnight.
It takes about ten days for a spot to open up and then it starts. Spirit Halloween has about two months to generate all of its sales, with over 90% coming from in-store purchases. “I like it somewhere between a military campaign and halftime at the Super Bowl. How did you do that?” said Silberstein.
So it’s not sending last-minute shoppers away empty-handed, as the retailer aims to be fully stocked by close on October 31st. It helps that a large portion of his costumes – think witches, ghosts, and specters – are evergreen, allowing him to bag up to 40% of his inventory at the end of each season rather than discounting it. This stuff is dumped in temporary storage units nearby, a cheaper alternative to hauling it back and forth to a larger distribution center.
Despite the country’s current labor shortage, the high rate of returning employees has helped Spirit fill its stores in just one season. Half of the employees in McKeon-managed stores previously worked there. There are many teenagers, housewives or teachers who often want to earn some extra money for the upcoming holiday season. Every year, a woman comes back to make enough money to pay her estate taxes, which is a scary fact in New Jersey.
Flexible shifts are part of the raffle. Do you only have time to work two hours a day, two days a week? He’s fine. For example, McCon has only worked at the retailer for five months in each of the past 12 years. The rest of the year she volunteers at her children’s school, where she organizes field trips and runs the library. In the summer, she and her husband pursue another seasonal business: running a city ice cream truck.
“People are geared towards coming back,” Silverstein said. “It’s one of our secrets.”
To stay competitive with big chains like Target and Walmart, Spirit has increased salaries over the past year and made withdrawals more attractive to former employees. The 30% staff discount on Spirit doesn’t hurt Halloween enthusiasts like McCann in particular.
“They have proven agile in staffing and achieving optimal leases,” said Joe Tringley, an analyst at Moody’s. “If it were easy, everyone would do it. It acts as a barrier to entry.”
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