It’s not fall until Spirit Halloween stores start popping up like zombies from their graves. The pop-up Halloween shops, which run from early August to Nov. 2, have become a staple of spooky season. The company is more than just creepy decorations and sexy nurse costumes, though. Here are four things to know about the country’s largest Halloween retailer:
They’re located pretty much everywhere.
You probably knew this one—once the first Spirit Halloween manifests itself seemingly overnight, the store’s bright sign and ghoulish mascot are around every corner. Put a ZIP code or address into their store finder and there’s likely to be one (or a dozen) near you. After more than 38 years in business, Spirit Halloween boasts over 1,400 locations in the U.S. and Canada and employs 35,000 workers for the season.
It helps that Spirit isn’t picky about where it sells disembodied heads and flaming hot Cheeto costumes (yes, they exist). The company starts looking for vacant storefronts to move into at the beginning of each year, and its requirements are pretty flexible. While Spirit prefers anywhere between 5,000 and 50,000 square feet of space, it proudly states that “no store is too large (or too small)”—meaning a Spirit Halloween can be just about anywhere.
It fills in vacancies left by major retailers.
Spirit Halloween can find so many locations largely due to the closings of major retailers—to put it in more morbid terms, it builds off the ashes of other companies, using their bulking, abandoned husks to their own benefit.
“Spirit is pretty much a bottom-feeder business that works only at the expense of other stores; if there weren’t vacant storefronts, this business wouldn’t exist,” Rachel Quednau, program director for urban planning advocacy group Strong Towns, wrote.
Whether that’s a good look for Spirit or not, this strategy has worked so far. While big retailers are going bankrupt left and right—Sears, JC Penney, Belk, and J. Crew are among those to succumb to changing times—Halloween is a booming business. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend $10.4 billion this year for Halloween—and Spirit has certainly capitalized on the excitement for the holiday.
It’s raised millions for charity.
According to Spirit Halloween, “at the heart of Spirit Halloween is Spirit of Children.” This isn’t as creepy as it sounds—Spirit of Children is a campaign launched by the company in 2006 that raises money for Child Life departments at hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.
The campaign donates money raised in-store, online, and through vendor donations to fund different child-centered programs. Whether it be music, pet therapy, toys, art, or indoor playgrounds, Spirit of Children works to “to make hospitals less scary for kids and their families.” It’s a bit ironic for a Halloween store, but noble nonetheless. Spirit of Children has raised over $77 million for their 147 partner hospitals since 2007.
The pandemic hasn’t stopped the campaign—care packages containing costumes, treat bags, and other goodies were sent to the programs last year, and hospital workers were able to keep the Halloween spirit alive by “reverse trick-or-treating” with the young patients, delivering their packages directly to their rooms.
There’s been a song written about it.
Yes, you read that correctly. Spirit Halloween has become such a pop culture icon that it now has its own song—with sequels. Singer, songwriter, and self-professed “current king of Halloween” Nick Lutsko produced a song about the pop-up shop last year and posted it on YouTube and Twitter.
Aptly titled “Spirit Halloween Theme,” the song unexpectedly blew up, becoming something of a serious joke. It has lyrics such as “Hail to the queen, this is Spirit Halloween / Haunting the buildings of every business Jeff Bezos killed,” but Spirit Halloween liked it enough to contract Lutsko to write two more theme songs.
“It’s a physical manifestation of Halloween,” Lutsko said about the company. “You’re driving to work and you see a Spirit Halloween pop up—and it’s like, ‘OK, it’s happening.’”
And, really—if there’s one thing to be said about Spirit Halloween, it’s that it really does seem to herald the beginning of the holiday season in its own spooky way.