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Halloween stores fill empty retail space, enjoy seasonal success

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JAMES P. LEUTE
October 19, 2011
— Like the shadowy characters that line their shelves, seasonal Halloween stores emerge each August to carve their share of a holiday pie that's expected to reach nearly $7 billion this year.

Two of the industry's biggest players are operating seasonal stores in Janesville.


Spirit Halloween opened Sept. 1 at 2826 Milton Ave., the former home of Everhart-O'Leary Motors.


Just down the road, Halloween Express opened its doors Aug. 26 in 10,000 square feet of space at the former Walgreens, 1720 Milton Ave.


Both have been here before. This year, however, they expect more treats than tricks as the National Retail Federation estimates that more people will celebrate the holiday, and in doing so, they'll spend more money.


The survey by the world's largest retail trade association suggests that seven in 10 Americans will partake in the festivities, the most in the nine years the organization has been making the survey.


The average person will drop $72.31 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $66.28 last year.


"We've been busy since the first day we opened," said Courtney Curry, store manager at Spirit Halloween.


Guy Cypert, who owns the Halloween Express franchise for Janesville, said the same has been true at his store.


"Our per-ticket sale price is up and our traffic is up," he said. "Some people are still holding off. We do the bulk of our business in the last 10 days leading up to Halloween."


It's an interesting business model, as the two retail stores are only open for eight or nine weeks.


Both Spirit Halloween and Halloween Express started prepping their Janesville stores in early August, and both will close Nov. 1.


But it's far more than a two-month business, Cypert said.


"We placed our orders in January at a trade show in Las Vegas," he said. "We have to plan pretty far in advance, and there's a lot to be done with preparations for displaying all of the merchandise.


"It's true we're only open eight or nine weeks, but we're working behind the scenes for most of the year."


In addition to thousands of square feet of Halloween costumes and paraphernalia, both stores feature interactive displays to put shoppers in the holiday mood.


"We have an in-store haunted house, a zombie wasteland and other spooky areas that lead to the merchandise," Curry said.


Both Curry and Cypert said interest in Halloween seems to be running higher this year than it did last year.


"I just think that everyone has been budgeted so tightly that Halloween is a holiday that they can really have fun with," Curry said. "And that's exactly what they're doing."


At Spirit Halloween, the popular costumes are zombies for adults, the Green Lantern look for boys and Monster High outfits for girls.


At Halloween Express, kids seem to gravitate toward Smurf or Power Ranger costumes. Cypert said he's sold a lot of beer girl outfits to women, and their significant others often go for a complementary look.


"If the woman dresses as a police officer, the guy will get a S.W.A.T costume," he said. "But overall, it's really been all across the board. That's why we have to have so much space to display all the costumes."


Also taking up space in Cypert's store is a full-size, 76-pound coffin. So far, he's sold three of them at $775 each.


After the coffins disappear from the seasonal store, the prospect for a longer-term tenant might linger.


In order to accommodate Halloween Express, the building's owner spent some money on renovations, and Barry Badertscher of First Weber Realtors said there has been a renewed interest in the property.


BY THE NUMBERS
43.9

Percent of people who plan to dress in costume, up from 40.1 percent in 2010
34.3

Percent who plan to host or attend a party, up from 33.3 percent in 2010
22.9

Percent who will visit a haunted house, up from 20.8 percent last year
49.5

Percent who will decorate their home or yard
73.5

Percent who will hand out candy
47.8

Percent who will carve a pumpkin
32.9

Percent who will take children trick-or-treating

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