For a month every year, a cheap banner is placed on an abandoned storefront. Mannequins in skimpy costumes are arranged for window displays in front of rows of masks, candy and pumpkins. The season of fall brings Halloween pop-up stores across America. For the few weeks surrounding October, stores nicknamed the “One Shop Stop for Halloween Supplies” occupy malls.
On the surface, these stores — such as Spirit Halloween or Halloween Express — seem like a great opportunity for consumers to gather all the supplies they need for Halloween in one place. However, these national chains are more harmful than they may seem.
Halloween pop-up stores originated over two decades ago when a Seattle man transformed his dress shop to a costume store for a month. After wild success, Joseph Marver continued opening temporary Halloween stores. Eventually, these stores became the Spirit Halloween brand which owns over 1,100 stores today.
Seasonal brick and mortar stores are successful because of their flexibility. When landlords have short lapses in renters, pop-up stores use temporary leases to fill the space. Though landlords used to see temporary tenants as unreliable, now they’re a means for easy cash. Whether the space is small or large, pop-up stores adapt the space with temporary fixtures. Even their inventory is adaptable; if it doesn’t sell, it’s shipped to a warehouse and sold next year.
Despite their advantages, pop-up stores last about as long as ghosts. New Jersey’s Consumer Affairs Division issued a consumer alert warning customers about the danger of seasonal Halloween stores. In the 2016 press release, Attorney General Christopher Porrino warned consumers to be extra careful because of the stores’ short lifespan. If there is a problem with a purchased product, the shop probably won’t be there for long after Halloween.
Ultimately, this hurts the customer and puts them at risk of being cheated or scammed. Instead of supporting companies that will ‘ghost’ you after Halloween, the Better Business Bureau recommends customers buy from familiar companies, learn about new stores and ask about a store’s return policies and year-round contact information.
Online Halloween retailers are not very reputable either for different reasons. Online stores have come under fire for selling inappropriate costumes. Some companies advertise this outright — one being the same company which had to pull an “Anne Frank” costume in the past week.
Other offensive costumes in recent years include a “Caitlyn Jenner” costume from Spirit Halloween, a “Tranny Granny” costume sold by various retailers (which is still sold under a different name) and a poorly disguised Kim Kardashian Robbery Costume sold as a “Parisian Heist” outfit.
Halloween scares should be reserved for corn mazes and hay rides, not shopping. Consumers need to be aware of risky seasonal stores, especially as Americans are expected to spend a record 9.1 billion dollars this year on Halloween-related goods.