This year, Halloween will be like no All Hallows’ Eve ever before.
The idea of clusters of dozens of shouting, laughing and, um, breathing children moving from house to house looking for candy is very high on the “things we shouldn’t be doing during the pandemic” list. Same goes for tightly packed parties in bars. And bobbing for apples? In the COVID-19 pandemic? Forget it.
As Halloween events around the world get reworked or cancelled altogether, there is one constant we can still count on to appear in the empty retail spaces of malls and parking lots across Canada. One seasonal constant seemingly undeterred by the global health crisis. A mark of the turn to fall as iconic and unflappable as the pumpkin spice latte.
The pop-up Halloween store.
Yes, even a global pandemic hasn’t stopped the annual rebirth of hundreds of Spirit Halloween locations from the ashes of former department stores and other abandoned retail spaces across North America. While 2020 continues to do its best to be the absolute worst, at least people across Canada and the U.S. will still be able to get knock-off Minions costumes, inflatable pumpkin yard decor and foam tombstones.
People are noticing the Halloween resiliency.
When I was riding the bus down Vancouver’s West Broadway mid-August, it was oddly reassuring to catch sight of the familiar black and orange banner in the shell of a former Mountain Equipment Co-op location. Like those videos from the spring of animals returning to human spaces, nature was healing.
They say there are three constants in life — death, taxes and Spirit Halloween.
The chain operates over 1,300 seasonal locations in previously empty retail spaces across Canada and the U.S. There were rumours earlier in the summer that the economic downturn had claimed Spirit Halloween. But In a July statement to social media, the chain confirmed it would be opening on schedule in August.
“Dear Halloween Fans, We heard you’re crushed, disheartened, and downright sad. Well, don’t worry, the rumors aren’t true. WE ARE BACK & WE GOT THIS COVERED,” the statement read alongside an image of someone in a pandemic response costume.
“It’s been a challenging year, but we promise to keep the Halloween spirit alive. Come early, come often and help make this year the #BestHalloweenEver.”
And like the changing of the tides, locations began appearing as early as the first week in August. Many people on social media pointed out that the economic downturn and subsequent closure of many retail businesses is a perfect situation for the chain notorious for filling in empty space in malls across Canada and the U.S.
Even the closure of the Trump Hotel in Vancouver jokingly got the Spirit Halloween spin.
The store itself isn’t totally ignoring the fact that there’s a global health crisis. Because if there’s a world event, we all know there will be a topical Halloween costume for it.
And while I’m already dreading the inevitable “sexy coronavirus” costume, Lady Gaga at the VMAs showed us there’s lots of creative potential to work masks into costumes.
Whatever Halloween 2020 brings in the year of COVID-19, it is ultimately reassuring to know we can still get our plastic grim reapers, cheap wigs and dose of “spooky” for the season.
You know what they say: just like life, Spirit Halloween finds a way.