Halloween industry remains profitable despite depressed economy Skip to main content

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Halloween industry remains profitable despite depressed economy


Ghosts and goblins and ghouls are normally the horrifying hallmarks of annual Halloween holiday, satisfying generations of trick-or-treaters, horror movie aficionados, and lovers of frightfully fun parties during every seasonal stand.

But in these tough economic times, when consumerism can’t keep up with flagging incomes and mounting debt, the scariest thing about Halloween may be that we spend so much money on it.

A new report reveals a whole industry has emerged to deal with rising demand for costumes and other customary accouterments, raising Halloween-related revenues from around $6 million in 1988 to over $6 billion in 2011.

“Temporary Halloween stores have boomed in the years since the Sears experiment, growing in the past 10 years at a faster rate than spending for the holiday. In 1999, chain retailer Spirit Halloween, now owned by Spencer Gifts, operated 63 temporary Halloween stores. This season, it has 970 in the U.S. and Canada. Halloween Express, a Kentucky-based franchise launched in 1990 by a party store entrepreneur, had 130 stores in 2006. Halloween USA, a Michigan-based chain of pop-ups, had 100 stores in the same year. Today, the two have expanded to 300 and 400 pop-ups, respectively. Many more local chains have followed suit. The past five years have been explosive. In Manhattan, Ricky's NYC, a beauty chain, opened up 30 Halloween pop-ups this year in the greater New York area. In the suburbs, pop-ups are practically ubiquitous. In Akron, Ohio, a city of 200,000 an hour south of Cleveland, there are ten Halloween stores this year, says Debbie Meredith, the owner of Akron Design. ‘Halloween has become so popular that it's just about killing itself,’ Meredith says. She started her store 31 years ago in her basement, when she was sewing costumes for her friends' Halloween parties. Her first costume (still available for rental on the company's website) was a purple grape suit inspired by the 1978 Fruit of the Loom commercial.”

The boom is not just related to consumer preference. Where the economic Recession closed one door (or, rather business) it opened others. “Ironically, at the nadir of the economic crisis in 2009, when all other stores were suffering, Halloween pop-ups were at their peak, scooping up empty, low-rent space formerly occupied by stores like Circuit City and Linens 'n' Things. This year, many of the stores are opening in former Borders locations, though competition for space is now much fiercer, industry insiders say.”

This new multi-million dollar business does not necessarily bode well for average Americans reeling from years of overspending that’s recently revitalized in another economic epidemic.  In fact, consumer spending increased 0.6 percent, the Commerce Department said on Friday, after a 0.2 percent gain in August. However, incomes edged up only 0.1 percent after a 0.1 percent August drop. The solid increase in spending -- which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity -- lends momentum to fourth-quarter output, but the economy could flag if income growth does not pick up, putting Americans in another tough position. “They don't have much room and it's easy for them to lose balance with very modest shifts in hiring, the cost of food and everything,’ Steve Blitz, senior economist, ITG Investment Research in New York, told Fox Business this week.

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