Halloween spending helps local businesses

Justin Miller

Halloween may provide tricks or treats for costumed ghouls but, for local businesses, the season is filled with mainly treats.

"Halloween spending has picked up recently," Covered Wagon Crafts in Chillicothe owner Shirley Loser said. "People are more into decorating inside and out. Christmas used to be the only time that they would decorate the outside of their house and maybe just put a pumpkin or something out at Halloween.

"Now they really get into decorating inside and outside with the lights and other fun stuff there is to decorate with."

When the Halloween goodies begin to be displayed depends on the store.

"Halloween usually starts in the mid-part of September," Steve Baggett, the manager of the Chillicothe Alco, said. "We have costumes, makeup, decor and candy. It probably stays full until about a week or two until Halloween and then people begin to pick through it."

Other stores in the area concur with the trend of late spending.

"Usually customers purchase Halloween items later in the season," Judy Wiechman, manager of Joy's Hallmark in Morton, said. "Any of the promotional items like the ghosts that talk and things of that nature sell well overall."

During the season, the Hallmark store has candy, talking candy bowls, talking ghosts, candles, lighted branches for decoration, witch hats that talk and dance, motion detecting ghosts, Keepsake Ornaments and more on display for customers.

Wiechman said Halloween spending styles have stayed relatively the same throughout the past five years, with customers preferring to wait until closer to the date to make their purchases.

Some stores cater to Halloween spenders throughout the year.

"We have it out all year round," Loser said. "People who are traveling spot something unique and if they are only here in February, then they will get it in February.

"We have a lot of gift ware and a lot of it is handmade that we made ourselves. We also have Boyd Bears' Halloween line and Halloween cross stitch pattern. If you want to start a Halloween project like that you can't do it the day before, you have to get it early."

Specialty stores that feature central Halloween merchandise generally see a pick up in sales during the fall months.

"We carry some Halloween specific things," Steve Spain, the owner of the Costume Trunk in Peoria said. "We sell more witches, vampires and zombie makeup and more retail items. Most of our masks are sold during the Halloween season but we are here year round so we have a lot of theatrical things too.

"It's much more busy around Halloween for us. Some people come really early at the end of August and then a lot come Oct. 1. Of course we always have people who wait until the last minute though."

While most stores cater to Halloween needs, some stores exclusively cater to Halloween business.

Halloween City in East Peoria, and Halloween stores in Peoria, pop up for business at the start of September and close with a clearance sale in early November.

Due to a corporate policy of refusal to discuss company practices with the media, representatives refused comment for this story.

Stores that are set up in each community try to remain consistent throughout.

"Halloween spending on general merchandise and candy have increased in the last five years," Kroger spokeswoman Angie Smith said. "Kroger has kept with the market trends and have continued to improve on the selection. There is a better variety with great price points.

"The goal of the Halloween layouts is to have consistency in all stores and to ensure the layout is the most productive shopping experience for our customers, as we want to give our customers what they want, plus a little."

Julie Burns, owner of Among Friends in Washington, said Halloween buying starts early at her store.

"We start putting out fall items at the end of July and more Halloween specific ones around mid-August," Burns said. "Buying is very consistent. By the end of July, people are sick of the heat and sick of summer and are ready to get into fall."

Throughout the past few years, Burns said spending has stayed pretty level among her customers.

"I think it's pretty consistent," Burns said. "Every year, we think, 'can we pull this off again?' and then we do. I keep a sales calendar and we stay pretty consistent. Some months are better year to year but no month is too much off."