By Carlo Versano
It's that time of year: the leaves are changing color, the air is chilly, and everywhere you look there's a new Halloween superstore.
Pop-up Halloween stores are not only ubiquitous, they're among the few success stories of the Great Recession. When the economy tanked 10 years ago, it hit big-box stores like Circuit City, Linens 'n Things, and Office Depot ($ODP) especially hard (only one of those companies still exists). That breed of store ー usually an anchor tenant in a strip mall ー had big footprints, and when it went out of business, a big chunk of mall traffic went along with it.
Commercial real-estate landlords were stuck with expansive storefronts that were hard to lease, given the economy, so ー all of a sudden ー short-term leases became attractive. Enter the Halloween pop-up.
It was the perfect union between tenant and landlord: Halloween stores were flexible in their size needs, had a stable inventory, required high visibility, and would only be in business for two or three months out of the year. Landlords could charge higher rents for the short-term lease, and still keep the properties on the market for longer-term anchor tenants.
This formula proved so successful in the midst of a recession that it's the reason why there are so many Halloween pop-ups today, even with a strong economy. Spirit Halloween, the largest Halloween store in the country, went from 60 season locations in 1999 to the 1,200 outposts it has today.
So when you buy your last-minute costume this weekend, don't forget to thank the ghost of Circuit City.