Neither Spirit nor Halloween City have locations in Ahwatukee
Special to AFN

Every year toward the end of summer, Halloween stores pop up around the Phoenix metro area and have a significant, though temporary, effect on the commercial real estate market.

For the past decade, retailers like Spirit Halloween and Halloween City consistently have emerged in late summer to peddle costumes, decorations and accessories to consumers, occupying vacant retail space in the process.

“I think they have become expected,” said Mark Stapp, Fred E. Taylor professor of real estate at W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

“When they first started to pop up (people saw them as) weird, but now they’ve established themselves in consumers’ minds, and we expect to see them,” Stapp added.

The stores are tapping into a massive market, as 179 million Americans are expected to participate in Halloween this year, spending roughly $9.1 billion on items related to the holiday, according to a report from the National Retail Federation.

The vast majority of that spending – $3.4 billion nationwide – will go toward purchasing costumes. Candy and decorations are each expected to account for $2.7 billion in Halloween spending, according to the NRF report.

Temporary Halloween stores fill a unique niche in the local real estate market in that they occupy vacant retail space for a limited period of time. They tend to favor junior big box spaces that have a footprint of 40,000 square feet or less, Stapp said.

Neither Spirit nor Halloween City, the major corporate players in the pop up Halloween store industry, have locations in Ahwatukee – likely due to the community’s low retail vacancy rate.

The Ahwatukee/Tempe submarket has a retail vacancy rate of just 6.96 percent. That is lower than the Valley’s overall vacancy rate of 8.5 percent, according to CBRE’s most recent market report on the sector.

Spirit – owned by gag-gift retailer Spencer’s – has dozens of locations in the area, including one in Chandler at Ray Road and 54th Street in Chandler Pavilions. The retailer also has two locations in Tempe.

Nationwide, Spirit has hired over 30,000 people to run its 1,300 stores, according to information provided by the chain.

Despite being a temporary occupant, these stores have a tangible impact on the real estate market and local economy.

“I think there (are) vacancies across the market and when you’ve got places like Spirit that come in and fill vacant space, even on a limited time frame, the reality is it is beneficial to all the parties,” CBRE Retail Services First Vice President Todd Folger said.

Folger added, “It generates sales for the operator, rent for the landlord and sales tax for the city.”

Stapp compared the stores to the pumpkin stands and Christmas tree lots that appear for weeks at a time around the holidays and generate income on otherwise unoccupied property.

Those temporary stores are not the only seasonal aberration that affects the local economy, though. Haunted houses also have a significant affect on the private and nonprofit sectors.

Ticket sales to themed haunted sites account for about $1 billion nationwide, according to, an industry website and haunted house directory.

These haunted houses, hayrides and other events can range from produced events with Hollywood-style theatrics to smaller scale community gatherings.

In Ahwatukee, the Ahwatukee Board of Management is hosting its 16th Annual Haunted House and Hayride to benefit local youth programs.

The event, to be held Friday-Sunday, Oct. 27-29, at the Ahwatukee Community Swim & Tennis Center, 4700 E. Warner Road, costs $9 for adults and $6 for kids.

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