Data’s Role in Ensuring a Happy Halloween

by | Oct 12, 2023 | Manufacturing & Supply Chain

Reading Time: 4 minutes

An abandoned building around Halloween seems like a scary movie trope. It’s the type of place where, if it were in a movie, you would find yourself shouting at the main character, “Don’t go in there!” In real life, abandoned buildings, or at the very least abandoned stores, have become a different kind of Halloween trope: They will inevitably be turned into a Spirit Halloween.

Halloween 2023 is Spirit’s 40th season. The organization relies on very specific data in order to conduct business in its unique way, from how it handles the supply chain to where it opens its stores. Here’s a look at some of Spirit’s business model, and how data informs the company’s decisions.

Popping up every year

Spirit Halloween taking over a business after it closes down is such an omnipresent theme that it has become the stuff of internet memes. Your favorite baseball team didn’t make the post-season? Expect someone to post a picture of their home ballpark with a Spirit Halloween sign out front. Not many businesses are as well known for taking over unused spaces.

The company opened more than 1,500 locations across North America for the 2023 Halloween season, which began in July when it comes to opening stores and staffing. Spirit hired 40,000 people throughout the United States and Canada this year. The store calls itself a one-stop shop for everything Halloween – and prides itself not only for the merchandise it offers but also for the visual presentation, providing “a truly impressive, unique and unforgettable shopping experience.”

Data dictates locations

Sometimes Spirit Halloween shows up in the same location year after year, but often there is a new location from one year to the next. Certain data points help the organization figure out where it will be opening. On its website, Spirit Halloween lists certain criteria that it tries to meet. In addition to a 3-month lease, Spirit aims to set up in communities that have:

  • A population of 35,000 or more
  • People living within a 3-5 mile radius of the store
  • A count of at least 25,000 cars per day

Spirit says an ideal location features 5,000 to 50,000 square feet of sales floor space with “awesome” visibility, but they stress flexibility and say no store is too large or too small. Spirit does its research on spaces from January through August, but it’s not the only ones crunching numbers – the retail spaces it’s filling are owned by someone looking for a tenant.

The types of large retail buildings in which Spirit Halloween opens stores, whether those are in large indoor malls or outdoor strip malls or shopping centers, are part of an approach to urban development that creates permanent structures. When a big store goes out of business, it can be hard to repurpose those structures, unless a Spirit Halloween comes around.

Supply chain data dictates spooky season

Halloween may fall on October 31, but the business of Halloween is a year-round affair. Spirit Halloweens open on or about September 1, but the planning for the Halloween season happens well before that.

Like many other industries, the various supply chain issues over the past few years have forced companies that specialize in Halloween to order products like costumes, candy, and decorations earlier and earlier. While the ideal window for orders is six to eight months in advance, the tricky thing about Halloween is that costume trends change from year to year. Often companies don’t know that far in advance what people are going to want to dress as.

Julie Niederhoff, an associate professor at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, tells Marketplace that in 2021, “Squid Game” came out just a month and a half before Halloween. “Everybody wanted ‘Squid Game’ costumes and ‘Squid Game’ designs, but that was not on anyone’s production planning six months earlier,” she said. “So there was a really big mismatch between what consumers were looking for and what was available, and the supply chain just couldn’t work fast enough.”

When trends are as unpredictable as Halloween costumes every year, an organization needs to stay on top of every other variable. The right analytics solution can provide real-time shipping data and help track inventory so that informed decisions can be made right up until the big day.

It’s no small matter. Spirit Halloween might only be around for a few months, but those few months have the potential for huge business. The National Retail Federation expects Halloween spending to reach a record $12.2 billion in 2023, almost $2 billion more than a year ago. Whether it’s Spirit Halloween or any other business using data, an analytics solution is the best way to position yourself so there are no tricks…only treats.

John Sucich
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