Dave B. is the manager of the Spirit Halloween store in Ansonia, CT. He has been managing Spirit Halloween stores for four years.
Electronic church bells chime ominously as Matt Wagstaffe begins the conversation…
P: Let’s begin with some logistical questions: when do you start setting up the store?
D: We typically begin in August, probably towards the end of the month.
P: What are the spatial requirements that Spirit looks for in a store?
D: It depends on the size of the location, but we generally go with something that has enough room for different sections—whether they be kids or adults—as well as dressing rooms and sufficient space for a stockroom.
P: How big is the stockroom?
D: Off the top of my head, I’m not really sure. But at least one-sixth of the space.
P: So you start setting up the store. Then when does inventory begin to arrive?
D: It fluctuates, but they give us enough time to build out the store. We don’t use the actual wall-walls. We bring in our own walls. We build the walls ourselves and set them up according to the planograms that Spirit provides. Then, not too soon after, we are sent an initial shipment of products so that we can get an idea of how things will be pegged up.
[Church bell rings again…]
P: And when you say “us,” who…
D: It is all of the associates that we are hiring at that time, as well as returning associates who are typically district managers.
P: So the same people that sell items in the stores build them?
D: Yes. I myself set up three or four stores this year.
P: Do you work at a number of different locations?
D: No, this is my store.
P: How many days does it take to move it all in?
D: They gave us an initial set up time of eleven days this year.
P: And then the spatial arrangement within the store… Is there a hot-spot to put high-priced items, or are there any sort of rules for that?
D: People’s eyes go up towards the top—that’s the strike zone. That’s where we put the hot items. There are also focal walls that are above the lower walls. These focals walls go up higher so that they can be seen as one goes through the store. For example, from right here you can see Stranger Things, Nightmare Before Christmas, and a few other things that are our main focuses.
P: What’s the split between costumes, decorations…
D: That’s a very good question. As far as I know, we are the only store in the area that sells animatronics. I know Halloween City mostly does costumes because they are the off-shoot of Party City. Spooky Town also mostly does costumes. We do a little bit of everything. Obviously, because the walls are lined with costumes, we too deal mainly in costumes. [Church bell rings.] But because we are the only ones that sell decor… I’d say we have 50% costumes, 40% décor, and 10% miscellaneous.
P: What’s the breakdown between scary and non-scary products?
D: Honestly, it’s half-and-half. As you can tell, our inventory is broken down into licensed and unlicensed merchandise. Most licensed products are faced towards the door so that something familiar catches customers’ eyes, whereas the unlicensed—our products specifically—are splashed in intermittently. Scary is mostly left up to our animatronics, which you can’t find anywhere else.
P: Do you have a special licensing agreement with the animatronics producers?
D: I’m not entirely sure. I know that they come from the Spirit/Spencer’s company, so we don’t need licensing from anyone else. It’s just ours. [Church bell rings.] If anything, we did get some Nightmare Before Christmas animatronics this year, which we probably had to license from Disney. Other than that, most of our products are originals.
P: How many boxes of the fake spiderwebs to you sell?
D: Spiderwebs? [taps rhythmically on the counter] It depends. We have different sizes and styles. Probably ten boxes at least, depending on how well packed they are.
P: Where does Spirit keep all of the inventory for the rest of the year?
D: I’m assuming that it goes back to a warehouse. At the end of the season we do the inventory ourselves, pack everything up, and send it back.
Pause for customers.
[Adams Family theme song plays.]
P: Do you know what happens to the space during the rest of the year?
D: I believe it is typically closed. Most people know that this is where Spirit is in Ansonia. This year there was a bidding war with Halloween Town. They were probably trying to take our spot because they know that locals are familiar with the location.
P: And what about employees, what do they do during the rest of the year?
D: I work at a Spencer’s, so I go back there. Everyone else has other jobs, or they just pick this up as a part-time gig.
P: How frequently do employees return for another season?
D: That also fluctuates. It depends on how they felt the experience was. Some people don’t cut it towards the end, just because it’s a high pressure situation. We are a seasonal store with a certain demand, and because we specialize in specifically Halloween… We are—not to boast—better than most Halloween stores because we sell costumes, décor, and a multitude of other things, as well as exclusives. [Church bell rings.] We get a fair amount of business, and sometimes it’s a little too much for some people to handle.
P: Does working here ruin Halloween for employees, or is it something that you still love and look forward to?
D: Whenever I hold interviews, typically the first question I ask is if you like Halloween. [to associate standing next to him behind the counter] Hailey! Is that what I asked you?
D: Do you like Halloween?
H: I love Halloween!
D: You get used to it. If anything, the worst part is the music. We only get one playlist. I’m here everyday, Hailey is here most days, and we all have that one song that we hate.
H: [laughs] I have multiple.
D: [to Hailey] I really like “What Does the Fox Say?” It’s so good. It doesn’t make sense, it’s not even a Halloween song. [laughter] Other than that, you get used to it. Eh.
E: And one last question: What is your favorite scary movie?
D: Rrreeaaahhhh… That’s a very good question… I like gore porn, so I am a big fan of the Saw series. I really enjoyed the recent IT remake [All: Yeah, yeah, it’s great]. I thought [actor Bill] Skarsgard was great and Pennywise was very funny. I like thinking about him waving the kid’s arm while eating it in the bushes. That was pretty cool. I also like his dance.
October 26, 2017