A few weeks ago Instapundit asked the question:
“Is it just me, or are people making a bigger deal out of Halloween than they used to?”
No, it’s not just a law professor in Tennessee noticing Halloween. It’s happening all across America. Halloween has become a big deal in the United States. Halloween sales are expected to reach US$3.12 Billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation.
A survey by the Macerich Company (a REIT which invests in shopping malls) says that a majority of Americans (59%) plan to participate in Halloween this year. That’s a pretty amazing figure, when you consider that roughly the same percentage (60%) are expected to come out to vote for the leader of the free world — and 60% voter turnout would be close to a record in recent years.
This unprecedented interest comes to a holiday that started out 25 centuries ago in Celtic Ireland, where it marked the end of harvest time and the start of winter. In medieval times the holiday coincided with the eve of All Saints’ Day. The name “Halloween” comes from medieval England’s All Hallows’ eve (Old Eng. hallow=saint).
In places across America — like Des Moines, Iowa and Akron, Ohio — the retail landscape is changing as a result of the interest in Halloween.
First of all, it is driving a trend toward large superstores opening seasonally just to sell Halloween goods. This report by Patt Johnson of the Des Moines Register summarizes it:
“No longer are discount stores and small seasonal shops enough for some fright-night fans. This year in Des Moines, at least four superstores have opened, joining mass merchandisers and other shops that offer goods for Halloween, Oct. 31.
‘People are really getting into it,’ said Mike Fitzgibbons, who operates two Spirit Halloween Superstores. ‘And it’s not just kids, but adults, too.'”
This trend toward large superstores opening up for temporary sales is sure to change the dynamics for smaller costume shops and smaller retailers. On the one hand, these superstores can be stiff competition for smaller, local independents. In typical “big box” fashion, with their huge sourcing power, they offer a large selection at prices most smaller retailers cannot afford to compete with.
On the other hand, all the visibility and marketing by these superstores increases the interest in Halloween overall. On the theory of a rising tide raising all ships, it can lead even family-owned costume shops to higher sales.
The growth in temporary Halloween stores also signals a change in the real estate landscape. In recent years, landlords have warmed to the idea of temporary tenants coming in to sell just for a holiday season or limited time. Temporary leasing has become a US$10 Billion per year industry. Temporary tenants are becoming an important niche for retail real estate, as this article by Mary Etheridge in the Akron Beacon Journal suggests:
“In February of this year, Circuit City closed its Fairlawn big-box store, leaving the city with a gaping hole in its otherwise healthy retail landscape.
But in September, Halloween USA, a division of the Michigan-based Gags and Games Inc., moved into the vacated space for eight weeks to sell costumes and decorations to holiday revelers.
It is one of 50 temporary and 30 year-round party stores for Gags and Games.
Temporary tenants such as Halloween USA are an increasingly important niche of retail, creating income for center owners, driving business to neighboring retailers, giving marketers a chance to try new products and helping landlords maintain the appearance of success.”
Temporary tenancy also has its positive side for entrepreneurs and budding retail businesses. It presents a chance for entrepreneurs to test market. As the same article notes, quoting Patrice Duker, spokeswoman for the International Council of Shopping Centers:
“Temporary tenancy is also a chance for entrepreneurs to test concepts or capitalize on what’s hot without a long-term commitment, said Duker.
For instance, the hat retailer Lids and home store Yankee Candle both began as temporary tenants.
‘A retailer can build a business slowly but get the kind of exposure that comes from being in a center,’ said Duker.”[UPDATE: I realized after posting this that morepeople will be participating in Halloween this year than are expected to vote, because the 60% voter turnout would be measured just on registered voters, not the entire population.]