Trick or treaters at night

Why Do So Many Empty Storefronts Become Spirit Halloweens?

It is spooky how quickly empty storefronts turn into Spirit Halloween stores this time of year. Across the country, around 1,500 vacant buildings come to life for a few weeks each fall. The orange banners go up as soon as pumpkin spice lattes go on sale, then everything gets packed away the first week of November. 

The Hanson & Payne team was curious about how this holiday phenomenon happens, and it turns out we weren’t the only ones. Several media outlets have done stories that detail how Spirit Halloween stores seemingly pop up overnight, then close their doors the minute Halloween is over

The company does not hesitate to reveal it seeks out landlords whose retail properties are vacant because of bankruptcies or corporate restructurings. The company has become so good at hunting down the seasonal space it needs it actually has no flagship store and no physical storefront that remains open year round. You can, however, buy products off the Spirit Halloween website any time of the year. 

Spirit Halloween’s Wisconsin Connection

This year, there are nine Spirit Halloween stores set up in the Milwaukee area. And the store locator on the Spirit Halloween website indicates they are in a former Forever 21, a former Kohl’s, two former Bed Bath and Beyonds, a former DSW Shoe store, a former Charming Charlie, a former Pier 1, and a former Ben Franklin Crafts. It’s like a who’s who list of troubled retailers. Many of these chains have gone through bankruptcy proceedings in the last few years. 

Beyond the plethora of pop-up locations in our area, Spirit Halloween has a hidden tie to the Milwaukee region. Radio Milwaukee recently revealed that the Baird Display Division of Green Bay Packaging (GBP), located in Waukesha, designs and builds all of those creepy in-store displays that Spirit Halloween is famous for:

In “the business,” as Mike Bagatta explained, those displays are called in-store experiences (ISEs). Six years ago, GBP won a design challenge to earn the bid to create Spirit’s ISEs…

The GBP team builds all of the ISEs from sustainable corrugated cardboard and some plastic, with the finished product containing up to 150 parts and sometimes reaching 14 feet tall.

“You have to walk a fine line between something being really aesthetically cool and still be able to produce it in the factory here,” Bagatta said, sitting at his workspace with an eight-foot-tall 3D skull in the background. “Everything starts with a flat sheet of corrugated material, and what we’re doing is figuring out where to put all the folds. It’s like a larger origami puzzle.”

Bagatta revealed that even though the stores are only open a few short weeks, planning and prep for the busy Halloween season goes on year-round. 

Milwaukee’s Full-Service Bankruptcy Firm

It is fascinating to find a company that spends as much time looking at bankruptcy filings as the Hanson & Payne team. And we are always interested to learn about Milwaukee area businesses who are doing interesting work, so learning about GBP’s Spirit Halloween displays was a treat. 
Whether you want to chat about Spirit Halloween, or have serious questions about the bankruptcy process, the Hanson & Payne team is here for you. Please contact us today to schedule a meeting.