It’s late August. The temperature is close to 90 degrees. Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, is more than a week away.
So why is candy corn already lining seasonal sales aisles in some stores and why are Halloween pop-up shops sprouting across the Lowcountry?
Because it’s that time of year. School is back in session, and people’s thoughts are looking ahead to cooler days.
Just like Christmas trees start popping up in stores three months before the holiday, jack-o-lanterns and haunting images appear in seasonal, part-time shops in late August.
Halloween pop-up stores like to start setting up shop the week before Labor Day, according to Britt Beemer, chairman and founder of Summerville-based America’s Research Group.
They open in early September and try to be fully stocked by the end of the month for their five-week sprint before Oct. 31.
“Parents go in early looking for costumes for kids,” Beemer said. “The shops bring in the other stuff later.”
Already, two seasonal Halloween shops have announced plans in Mount Pleasant, Spirit Halloween near Bowman Road and Halloween Express near the Isle of Palms Connector. Another Halloween Express will go up in an orange tent near Northwoods Mall in North Charleston, according to Mount Pleasant store manager Mandy Jeffrey. There will probably be others.
But just because they have set up haunts early doesn’t mean sales in the $8 billion industry will be spooktacular, Beemer said.
In fact, they could be a tad frightful this year.
“They will be down 1 to 2 percent,” the consumer researcher said. “Parents will still buy costumes for their kids, but they will buy cheaper items, not the more expensive ones.”
The reasons are well, not quite but close to, blood-curdling.
Beemer said people have less take-home money, many are avoiding credit card debt, houses are not being used as piggy banks for incidental spending, and many people are making less money or working fewer hours in the wake of the Great Recession.
And will the frugality spill over into holiday shopping later this fall?
Maybe. It’s a bit early, but Beemer predicts holiday retail sales could be anywhere between minus 2 percent to plus 1 percent.
People will buy early during the Black Friday sales and then wait until the weekend before Christmas for the last-minute deals, Beemer predicts. Plus, there is one less weekend to shop this year since Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 28.
The National Retail Federation, the largest retail organization in the country, will probably have a rosier forecast, but it won’t come out for a while yet.
But before shoppers start humming “Happy Holidays,” they will concentrate on things that go bump in the night.