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Spirit Halloween lives on when holiday ends

The facade of seasonal Halloween decor store Spirit Halloween at a shopping center in Dublin, California, on Aug. 23, 2018.

Smith Collection | Archive Photos | Getty Images

Halloween is over, and your local Spirit Halloween is about to become a ghost town.

It’s open Wednesday for clearance sales. On Thursday, it’ll close. But its work is not yet done. In fact, it continues all year.

The inventory carryover from season to season is “very minimal,” a representative for Spirit Halloween said. But costumes that were not sold and remain in good condition are stored for the next spooky season. Merchandise is also available to purchase all year through Spirit Halloween’s website.

As for the upward of 40,000 employees Spirit Halloween hired this season, a representative for Spirit Halloween said many are offered the ability to stay onboard with the company in a role at mall retailer Spencer’s Gifts, also owned by Spirit Halloween’s parent company, Spencer Spirit Holdings.

The Halloween chain is also nearly fully vertical, with Spirit Halloween handling all the “sourcing, design and manufacturing” itself, CEO Steven Silverstein said Monday on CNBC’s “The Exchange.” “Spirit has become such a phenomenon that no other market can keep up with it,” Silverstein said.

Spirit Halloween stores are known for “possessing” abandoned store fronts for the Halloween season and vanishing without a trace after the spooky holiday, making it a popular online meme whenever something shuts down.

The retailer opened a record 1,506 stores this season, up more than 50 stores from 2022, Spirit Halloween told CNBC. Locations have more than doubled since 2009, the company added.

Dead stores rise from the grave

But these store openings aren’t conventional. Since Spirit Halloween locations are only open a few months out of the year, the company does not have to build a new storefront or enter into a long-term lease to open its more than 1,500 locations.

A representative from Spirit Halloween told CNBC that the operations team works year-round to secure locations, often committing to a storefront as early as the spring and as late as the first week of October.

For landlords, it means someone is leasing their space, if even for a few months. Store closures have ramped up in recent years, as struggling retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Rite Aid and CVS Pharmacy close large swaths of locations across the country. These become opportunities for Spirit Halloween, then, as the company pays to use the abandoned space for the Halloween season.

The store locator on its website even lists the previous occupant of the retail space before Spirit Halloween took over.

A screenshot of Spirit Halloween’s online store locator on Nov. 1, 2023, which shows what previously occupied the retail space.

Drew Richardson | CNBC

“We have built great relationships with our real estate partners over the years,” a representative for Spirit Halloween told CNBC. “It is a win-win for all parties involved.”

The company is also flexible in its preferences of retail space. Spirit Halloween considers locations in anywhere from strip centers to shopping malls, with square footage ranging between 5,000 and 50,000.

“No store is too large or too small,” the company told CNBC.

“It’s crazy how the stores just pop up,” said shopper Maria, 16, on Saturday. She and her friend Jane, 17, were waiting in a wrapped-around line outside a New York Sprit Halloween location. “Then they just disappear,” she said.

The store, in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, was opened in the former location of Harmon Face Values, a health and beauty retailer that was owned by now-bankrupt Bed Bath & Beyond. The location closed in February 2022.

Tricks, treats and travails

Outside a Spirit Halloween store in New York City on Oct. 31, 2023.

Drew Richardson | CNBC

It takes nine to 11 days for a Spirit Halloween store to go through the opening process, the company told CNBC. The short setup time gives the retailer a leg up over traditional retail openings, said GlobalData retail analyst Neil Saunders.

“Spirit Halloween doesn’t have to pay too much attention to things like flooring and construction, which are usually very time consuming when opening new shops,” Saunders said.

Opening in a temporary spot can have its drawbacks, however. Inside one Spirit Halloween location in New York City, customers are met with humid air and the hum of several plug-in fans.

“The AC went out my first week here,” said one of the location’s managers, who declined to be named since they weren’t authorized to comment. “Since we’re only here a couple months, I think it’s not worth fixing, in their opinion.”

After walking out of a packed Spirit Halloween location — a former CVS Pharmacy — in New York’s Brooklyn Heights neighborhood on Friday, a woman who wished only to be identified as Lana said it’s funny that the stores open in different spots every year.

“It can make them hard to find,” said Lana, 35. She had just purchased Spider-Man and marshmallow costumes for her two children.

“I’m from Russia and we don’t typically celebrate Halloween there,” she said. “So, I’m a casual celebrator of Halloween.”

But Americans take Halloween seriously. The National Retail Federation said Americans were expected to spend a record $12.2 billion on the spooky holiday this year, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

Spirit Halloween CEO: The company's strategy is to seek temporary three-month leases

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