NEW YORK - The recession hasn't been so scary for Halloween stores. In fact, they're finding better haunts in the graveyards of failed retailers.
The seasonal sellers are taking advantage of the spate of retail bankruptcies and closings to open more - and larger - temporary stores this year in better locations. It adds up to an aggressive bid to capture cautious consumers' dollars in an industry that has grown rapidly over the past decade.
Spirit Halloween has raised 83 former Circuit City stores from the dead, part of the 100 stores it has added to the 625 it had last year.
Other smaller competitors also are taking bigger bites this year: Halloween Express, based in Owenton, Ky., and Halloween Adventure, based in Garnet Valley, Pa., have each added about 10 stores this year.
Since Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, retailers are hoping for brisk business.
Despite the recession, market research firm IBISWorld Inc. expects 2009 sales for costumes and decor to rise 3 percent to $3.8 billion this year. Halloween Adventure chief executive Joe Purifico confirmed sales were "trending up" as the company headed into the important two-week stretch before Halloween.
But seasonal retailers face tough competition for market share from lower-priced retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart, so visibility is key.
"The bigger the storefront, the bigger impression you have on the consumer, and that's the big plus," said Tony Detzi, Spirit Halloween's vice president of operations.
They stores say they're not really saving much on rent, but spending similar amounts to get better locations.
Empty retail space from the closings of Circuit City, Mervyns, Linens 'N Things and Home Depot's Expo Design Center have given the temporary stores plenty to work with.