From haunted houses to pop-up stores, Halloween is big business in southeastern Massachusetts
Herald News Photo | Jack Foley
A prisoner left to die reaches out from the other side in the catacombs of the Factory of Terror.
If it’s escapism you’re looking for this Halloween, you don’t have to go far.
A seasonal retail store specializing in everything from basic trick-or-treat makeup to sophisticated, animatronic display objects is back in business for another year.
Halloween pop-up stores are not an uncommon phenomenon. Spirit Halloween in Taunton Depot plaza on Route 140/County Street and in the Swansea Crossing on Swansea Mall Drive, for example, are part of a company with more than 1,000 locations in all 50 states, as well as Canada.
Spirit Halloween claims to be the largest Halloween speciality retailer in the country. It was acquired in 2009 by Spencer Gifts LLC, which for years has had a small retail store in Taunton’s Silver City Galleria mall.
“Halloween is not just for kids anymore,” said Lisa Barr, senior director of marketing for the New Jersey-based company.
Barr said an array of interactive displays in the store — including haunted mansion characters, a thrashing clown that shakes and laughs and zombie cats and gnome lawn ornaments — puts shoppers in the right frame of mind to buy.
She also said “sitting rooms” that afford children and adults a chance to try on costumes before buying are an integral part of the store’s philosophy.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than to take something home that doesn’t fit right,” Barr said.
Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, said there’s been “tremendous growth” in recent years in the Halloween pop-up sector.
“There’s definitely a market for it. Halloween shouldn’t be taken so lightly,” she said.
At the same time, Grannis acknowledges that the state of the economy and the government shutdown are, to an extent, weighing on people’s minds.
A recent NRF survey indicates about 158 million consumers will buy Halloween-related products this year, a decrease from last year’s all-time high of 170 million.
Shoppers, NRF says, will spend an average of just more than $75 this year compared to $79.82 in 2012 for costumes, candy and other merchandise.
But she said Halloween spending since 2005 has increased 54.7 percent. Total spending by adults is expected to reach $6.9 billion this season.
Joe Rando, whose Land Development-Northeast Inc. owns Taunton Depot, said he’s grateful Spirit Halloween continues to fill the 35,000-square-foot vacancy created in 2009 after Linens ‘N Things declared bankruptcy and moved out.
“They pay their rent on time, and they’re really easy to work with,” Rando said.
The Galleria mall, for a second year in a row, is playing host to a haunted house attraction called Ghoulie Manor. The next closest so-called haunt is the long-established Factory of Terror in Fall River.