How Spirit Halloween Takes the Fright out of Operating Thousands of Pop-up Stores Each Year

How Spirit Halloween Takes the Fright out of Operating Thousands of Pop-up Stores Each Year
Photo courtesy of Spirit Halloween

The Spirit Halloween business model relies on thousands of short-term leases of brick-and-mortar stores every year for its largest selling season. But with the wide variety of store spaces available, how does the retailer offer a consistent experience to customers?

“All Spirit Halloween stores follow a common design blueprint that is then adjusted to fit each specific retail space,” explained Nikki Balles, Corporate Director of Public Relations and Communications at the retailer and its parent company Spencer’s Gifts in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “By starting with a consistent brand layout at each of our stores, we are able to deliver the signature Spirit Halloween in-store experience to every fan, regardless of where they may be visiting us.”

To meet its goal of providing a delightful customer experience during its eight- to 10-week run each year, Spirit Halloween uses a combination of:

  • An annual grand opening of a flagship location in Egg Harbor, N.J. where the company is headquartered;
  • Fresh animatronics displays and installations in every store;
  • Officially licensed products from popular culture and Halloween traditions; and
  • Promoting the company’s Spirit of Children philanthropic arm.

While Spirit Halloween’s store footprint doesn’t include permanent locations, customers are able to shop the retailer throughout the year via The retailer has partnered with Instacart on a one-hour delivery service for certain zip codes, on goods from costumes and makeup to fog machines and a 12-foot inflatable scary clown.


Developing a Store Suitable for All Hallows’ Eve

Spirit Halloween’s brick-and-mortar presence begins to grow during the summer months. With a 2022 footprint of 1,450 locations, the company has more than doubled its number of physical stores since 2009. When scouting locations, the Spirit Halloween team searches for properties according to location, size and the roster of retailers within the neighborhood.

“We look to locate stores in power centers, strip centers, freestanding stores, major downtown retail locations and in major malls that are surrounded by a national retailer mix,” said Balles. “Our ideal locations will feature between 5,000 to 50,000 square feet of sales floor space with awesome visibility.”

New locations for 2022 include a space at the 3 million-square-foot American Dream retail and entertainment complex in East Rutherford, N.J.

Spirit Halloween is also known for entering into short-term leases for spaces that were formerly occupied by well-known retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Toys ‘R’Us and Bed Bath & Beyond. For the 2022 season, the retailer opened a Los Angeles flagship in the city’s Westchester, Calif. neighborhood near Los Angeles International Airport. Spirit Halloween leased approximately 19,000 square feet of the space, which formerly housed a two-floor, 40,000-square-foot Bed Bath & Beyond store that shuttered in June 2021.

Consumers who are dedicated to the brand also eagerly anticipate the annual summer grand opening of the Spirit Halloween flagships. These locations open in select cities to much fanfare as Halloween draws near.

“With each Halloween season, we strive to integrate new and exciting in-store elements while still delivering on consistency to bring our fans the Spirit Halloween store experience they know, love and look forward to,” said Balles. “We’ve seen that our superfans eagerly await the unveiling of the newest store design at the annual grand opening of our Egg Harbor, N.J. flagship location, which typically takes place in the summer before the season.”

Merchandising the Spirit Halloween Experience

The inventory offered each year at Spirit Halloween includes officially licensed costumes and products that reflect beloved horror and Halloween icons in addition to characters from popular culture. During 2022, its product lineup includes licensed goods from:

  • Stranger Things;
  • Disney;
  • Monster High;
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space;
  • Powerpuff Girls;
  • SpongeBob Squarepants;
  • Fortnite;
  • Beetlejuice;
  • Child’s Play; and
  • Ghostbusters.

Spirit Halloween has also become an important brand with its own cult following. Animatronic characters that were developed in-house include Crouchy, an enormous, terrifying clown; Nightcrawler, a crawling monster; and Strawman, a horrifying scarecrow. These are now fan favorites, so popular that the retail brand now offers merchandise and costumes that pay homage to these creatures.

The brand has become so beloved that it has inspired songs and was the focal point of 2022’s Spirit Halloween: The Movie, starring Christopher Lloyd and Rachel Leigh Cook, and produced by Strike Back Studios, Hideout Pictures and Particular Crowd. Much of the story was filmed inside an actual Spirit Halloween location that was once occupied by a Toys ‘R’  Us store in Georgia. The plot of the PG-13 movie follows three middle school friends who sneak into their local Spirit Halloween location for a sleepover, only to be haunted by an evil spirit who brings to life the store’s animatronic characters.

Healing with the Halloween Spirit

Building out the Spirit Halloween physical store experience is also an opportunity for the retailer and its customers to support children in need. While the company promotes frightening Halloween horrors in its stores, the goal of the Spirit of Children is to “make hospitals less scary for kids and their families,” Spirit Halloween noted in a press release.

In October, Spirit Halloween surpassed $100 million in fundraising since the Spirit of Children program’s inception. The funds will support Child Life programs at more than 150 partner hospitals across North America. Spirit Halloween supports children’s hospital programs through financial donations in addition to providing costumes, accessories, decorations and Halloween party supplies and volunteers. Customers who donate in-store are celebrated on the spot, bringing attention to the charitable efforts.

“When guests make an in-store donation to Spirit of Children, Spirit Halloween’s charitable foundation, store associates recognize the guest’s generosity by ringing an iconic purple cowbell,” said Ballas. “The ringing of the cowbell is followed by a celebration from associates and guests alike, which brings another layer of infectiously positive energy to the in-store experience.”


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