Six-year-old Areia Perdios darts through capes, hot-dog suits and warrior-queen sets. Spirit Halloween has popped up on 57th Street in New York, just a few blocks from her home, and in a few days it will be gone—leaving as suddenly as it arrived. “You kind of wait for it,” says Emily Perdios, Areia’s mother, still unsure what she will dress as. Her daughter, however, is certain: she wants to be a bunny. After all, Ms Areia is “not really into witches any more”.
The Perdios family is one of many who turn to Spirit Halloween—a pop-up store that arrives in shopping centres and strip malls for a couple of months each year. The business has existed for close to four decades and now has more than 1,400 costume stores across the United States and Canada.
Americans spend big money on Halloween, for which adults as well as children dress up as ghosts, penguins or cardinals. This year the average American will probably shell out more than $100, according to the National Retail Federation, and households with children are projected to spend $50 on top of that. Total Halloween spending is likely to be $10.1bn, up from $8bn last year, when covid precautions curbed the fun.
Spirit’s stores appear for only a couple of months each year, but Steven Silverstein, the company’s boss, says setting up takes all year: it’s “24/7, 365 Halloween”. He hires more than 25,000 seasonal staff and relies on a network of local estate agents to make deals with landowners. After Spirit takes possession of premises in early August, the shops are up and running in a matter of weeks.
This year supply-chain backlogs delayed the arrival of goods at Spirit’s stores, Mr Silverstein says. Those delays have complicated online shopping, too. “If I can’t get anything [at Spirit] and have to go to Amazon, it’s not going to make it,” says Bala Gopal, a 34-year-old who turned to his local Spirit store a week before the holiday. Besides, Mr Gopal enjoys shopping in person. In the store, he inspects a Harley Quinn jacket and deems it to be of “decent-quality pleather” (imitation leather).
A temporary storefront gives a pop-up direct access to consumers without saddling it with the costs of a full-time bricks-and-mortar store. And although many businesses might benefit from that connection to shoppers, Spirit depends on it. A Halloween costume is an opportunity to amuse, seduce, terrify or impress. Unlike on other holidays, there’s little pressure to cook or play host. For many, it’s a chance to be a child again.