PARAMUS, N.J. — Like something out of a horror tale, an abandoned store in this northern New Jersey city has come back to life, as a Halloween retailer.
Spirit Halloween, a chain of more than 1,150 pop-up shops across the country, has reincarnated the former Staples store and filled it with 4,000 costumes and accessories with themes ranging from zombies to superheroes and princesses to prison inmates. And gory displays: a zombie-filled subway, a swamp surrounded by bloody and screaming animated creatures.
Spirit Halloween crams a lot of business into a short time. Its staff swells from the hundreds to more than 20,000 starting in June. It makes its revenue for the year in less than three months. The Paramus store, which took six days to set up, opened Aug. 21 and closes Nov. 1.
"We are equivalent to an army operation in terms of the way we mobilize and move products," says Steven Silverstein, CEO of the Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey-based company.
Pop-up stores have been around for decades, but the trend got a big boost when retailers got the idea of short-term rentals for holidays like Halloween and Christmas. Spirit Halloween was launched in 1983, as the holiday's focus was evolving from children and trick-or-treating to parties for people of all ages, Silverstein says.
Planning for this Halloween began over a year ago. For example, it takes 18 months to design and produce displays like the subway and swamp, which are set up in all the Spirit Halloween stores.
Employees scout for locations throughout the year. Some are vacant stores in shopping malls, while others occupy stores shuttered by big chains. A second Spirit Halloween in Paramus is five miles up the road in a former Kmart. High visibility is key; both stores are on Route 17, one of New Jersey's busiest shopping boulevards.
Merchandise starts rolling into Spirit Halloween's warehouses in May. By the summer, sites have been chosen, and by mid-August, the stores are prepped to receive the goods. Trucks start arriving, and the locations go from bare walls and floors to racks and shelves bursting with costumes, accessories, props and home decor.
Adults' interest in continuing or reviving the Halloween fun of their youth has turned the holiday into a huge money maker. Estimates of what consumers spend on Halloween vary widely, running as high as $11.4 billion on costumes, decorations and candy in 2014, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Spirit Halloween, which is privately owned, does not announce its sales figures.
"It has become the national party that everyone participates in," Silverstein says.
Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg
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