by Lorne Caplan Director of Content
So why are we doing a post Halloween retail store wrap-up? Simply because we want to be ready for Halloween 2017! Frankly, it’s also because we’re already missing seeing our favorite things on retail shelves and online. It seems every year, Halloween products are being offered earlier and taken off the shelves later.
This season, it was reported that East coast stores saw Halloween products being added to retail floors in the middle of August with West coast stores following a couple weeks later. Unfortunately, for fans of the spooky season, limited supplies at our favorites like Michael’s Stores and Homegoods wouldn’t be restocked. Retailers, you see, are very reluctant to get stuck with unsold inventory that they would have to liquidate, so there are far fewer clearance items a week before or after Halloween.
It has also become apparent, that fewer stores have the resources to get heavy into Halloween as opposed to Christmas, which is already being pushed in big box stores like Target and Walmart. We even saw some pop-up Halloween stores get false-starts in New Jersey, where Route 4 in Paramus would have seen a 30,000 square foot Spirit Halloween, if not for the late start and ultimately, dispute with the city about the location.
Our methods for determining what makes a Halloween retailer stand-out is not about costumes, party favors or cheap gift items. Rather, it’s about unique items that are made to spook you all season long. Well made, unique designs that are brought to you by a thoughtful buying department, that is what gets us excited. That being said, pricing, quality and product selection round out our other important categories. So here goes;
1) Homegoods – A TJX company, with the broadest selection of spooky and delightful items for the home. They import food items as well to round out the selection, but have one of the deepest offerings including throw pillows with the customary spider webs, unique items like Halloween count-down boards and pillows, candles, keep-sakes, six foot tombstones and so much more oh and the prices aren’t bad either!
2) Michael’s Stores – Most would expect to find craft items only, but as the years have passed, this chain of almost 1300 locations nationwide, has the buying power and creativity (perhaps built into the staff because of the DNA of the chain) to bring you Lemax Spookytown items as well as their proprietary spooky home items like hanging coffins, deathly door wreaths, spooky candy, ceramics, candles you name it. A real treat for the ghoulishly oriented.
3) Dollar Tree / Dollorama in Canada – While we were specific in what kinds of product mix we were looking for, you can’t discount the effort these dollar stores make to corner the Halloween market. The party items are of the highest quality as well as the decorations and the price is key for what you get. Love the Candy options as well, the biggest beyond the internet and again, the price is right.
4) Oriental Trading – While it is primarily a party supply online store, it’s pricing and selection are second to none. You can also get some costumes, home decorative items and you know you’ll get the delivery on-time.
5) CVS – A drugstore and pharmacy? Sure, why not. They make sure that they cover every holiday to take advantage of high margin sales and they give you a pretty good selection of costumes, candy, toys and home gift items and we love the post holiday sales at 50%! Buy for next year and do it now! How did the other drug-store chains do such as Duane Reade and Walgreen’s? Well, not quite as well as CVS and that suggests the buyers at CVS might have a better dark imagination.
6) Jo-Ann Stores – This medium sized competitor to our #2 selection Michael’s Stores has one of the better proprietary mix of home gift items as well as craft items such as stickers, ribbons, wreaths and other do it yourself items. We loved the pillows, resin tombstones and hanging wooden signs that came close to competitors quality and creativity.
7) Spencer Gifts and Spirit Halloween Pop-up stores – While we’re no fans of the poor quality of items offered at Spirit’s parent Spencer’s that carries over to Spirit itself, the quantity and selection can’t be beat for Halloween. Just don’t waste your money on the cheap junk that won’t last one season and if you’re shopping online, check with other sellers who likely will have your items for less.
8) Party City – They do get their Halloween on and while much of their selection are low priced costume and accessories, they do have quite the selection in their big box store format. Store branded products aren’t as unique as the top stores on this list, but if you need something for the home or your costume, this is a good place to stop into.
9) Pier 1 Imports – If we had done this list a decade ago, this company would have been higher-up on the list. They still commit a good bit of resources to Halloween items and they are unique to this store, but their emphasis on Dia de los Muertos / Sugar Skull designs has left me wanting their old buyers and designers to get back into the store.
10) Target – The only big box discount department store and certainly beyond Wal-Mart, Sears or anyone else, that has a decent grip on Halloween and a spooky theme to get all the little ghoul’s excited. Unfortunately, pricing and lack of uniqueness in the candy area dropped it to the last store on this list. Still, you can find some good items for reasonable prices like a spider-web bathmat and some ceramic pumpkins with spooky faces.
Special mention goes to stores like Williams and Sonoma, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn which all have select Halloween items that are high quality home decorative items. The prices aren’t for everyone, but the design is superior.
The bad – I had to mention an array of online drop-shippers that charge top dollar for items you can find anywhere online for less. With very little effort to promote and understand Halloween buyers, Worldmarkets, Overstock and Amazon, you’d be best to just focus on the stores that do their research and feel like they actually enjoy the holiday.
Disappointments would also include Wal-Mart, Bed Bath and Beyond and online home decoration gift company Design Toscano. With very little that is unique and prices that are far too high for what they have, Halloween is an afterthought and you can easily miss these retailers online or off.