Hauntrepreneurship: Local businesses take advantage of spooky Halloween season
When Dougherty’s Masquerade first opened to the public in 1985 on Erie Boulevard, it was among the local shops that pioneered the business of Halloween.
Fast-forward to 2012. The store has experienced a decline in sales, due in part to the store’s move to ShoppingTown Mall inDeWitt,N.Y., last November and the rough state of the economy. But Denise Dougherty Vinal, the store’s owner, said the biggest factor is the oversaturation of stores in Syracuse profiting from Halloween.
“We’re still here, and we’re here for the other 10 months of the year,” she said. “We expect people to support us during those two months. We like to keep the business local.”
Local businesses have been using Halloween as a way to increase revenue this year. A total of 170 million people will celebrate Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The average person will spend $79.82 on costumes, candy and decorations, compared to $72.31 last year. The total amount of spending for Halloween, the survey said, is expected hit $8 billion.
Roughly 35.7 percent of Americans will turn to a retail store for costume ideas compared with 27.1 percent on social media sites. The average person will spend $28.65 buying or making costumes this year, compared to $26.52 in 2011.
Julia Darrenkamp, spokeswoman for Party City, said the store noticed Halloween has become “a much bigger deal this year.”
“I think it’s traditionally been seen as a holiday for kids, but it’s also becoming popular with adults as well,” Darrenkamp said.
Other businesses also thrived this year. Fright Nights at the Fair experienced an increase in sales of 2 to 3 percent, compared to an industry-wide decrease of 10 to 15 percent, said Grazi Zavvara, the fair’s owner.
“We do a lot of extras that people do,” Zavvara said. “You can come here and not even go in the haunted house and still have fun.”
The increase in sales can also be attributed to SU’s Office of Student Activities, which, for the second time, participated by providing transportation and goodie bags to students who went.
Zavvara said the fairgrounds have a glass-enclosed truck with a mobile billboard that was brought to the university to advertise the fair.
“They asked us to bring it to the Schine Center and a couple other places,” he said. “They advertised for their discounts. Just things like that help.”
This year, 550 students participated, compared to 330 last year. Standard ticket prices were $20, but only $5 for students.
Indeed, there are other businesses that are looking at Halloween as an opportunity to increase their revenue. The Syracuse Chiefs minor league baseball team is now hosting an annual CarnEVIL of Chiefsville Haunted House at the Alliance Bank Stadium. The team also hopes to partner with SU, like Fright Nights at the Fair, in the future.
“In the offseason, normally we’d turn off the heat, lock the doors and get ready for next season. But the stadium is 138,000 square feet,” said John Simone, the stadium’s general manager. “This office is 7,000 (square feet), so it’d be kind of foolish not to use the stadium when we could get revenue, no matter what time of the year it is.”
The walk-through haunted house lasted from Oct. 11 to Oct. 27 and operated Thursdays through Saturdays from 6 to 11 p.m. Individuals entered parts of the stadium typically closed off to the public and encountered zombies, clowns, men with chainsaws, dead mannequins and more. The event attracted children, adults and college students alike.
“We think it’s something that can generate significant revenue down the road,” Simone said. “Haunted mansions are profitable. Halloween is more and more popular, I think, as far as from the commercial end of it.”
Staff members were able to put together the event in a span of six weeks, with help from Simplified Entertainment, an event-booking agency. They plan to spend an entire year planning next year’s event.
Vinal said Dougherty’s moved to ShoppingTown because its lease at the Erie Boulevard location was up, and they did not want to renew it because it was expensive. But they had to pay a price: The growth in the Halloween market, she said, led to a decline in the quality of the experience.
Said Vinal: “We’ve had so many people, our customers, come in and say, ‘It was like K-Mart Halloween in there. We left.’”
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