The Business of Halloween

The spirit of the modern day Halloween celebration can be defined by costumes, trick-or-treating for candy, and a good old-fashioned scare. But all this Halloween spirit can also mean big business, including for many local companies ... so I spent time talking specifically to three local companies about the business of Halloween.

Books That Go Boo

While many larger book retailers are struggling in our increasingly tech-dependent society, independent Michigan book seller Schuler Books and Music is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Headquartered in Grand Rapids, the bookstore has two Lansing area locations. Its Okemos location has been in existence for 22 years and its Eastwood Town Center store has been open for 10 ,and is known throughout the company as “Zombie headquarters.”

On Oct. 25, the store hosted its fourth annual Zombie Night. “This year we’re doing something a little different with the Zombie Olympics -- ‘Go for the Gore,’” explains Whitney Spotts, promotions coordinator at the Eastwood location. “Rita Wieber, mother of gold medal Olympian Jordyn Wieber, will be our guest of honor. She’ll be talking about her book Gym
Mom in part of the store, and will help us judge the kids’ and adults’ costume contests.”

The night before, Schuler’s hosted a paranormal author panel featuring authors from Michigan and New York. Together the events were expected to bring in several hundred additional customers.

“Anytime we can bring people in to the store to see everything we have to offer, I definitely think it impacts our sales,” Spotts says, “but really our events are about building a community where people can embrace their love of books -- and zombies -- and share it with other like-minded people.”

Halloween Heads Downtown

Last year, 20,000 people flooded downtown Lansing’s businesses for Trick-or-Treat on the Square, an event facilitated by Downtown Lansing, Inc. Pair that with the 4,500 wristbands distributed for the Tour of Terror Halloween Bar Crawl and Halloween makes a positive economic impact on Washington Avenue.

“Businesses have the opportunity to gain new customers and increase sales, including overnight stays in area hotels,” says Mindy Biladeau, executive director of Downtown Lansing, Inc., the organization that manages the Michigan Main Street program downtown and Central Business District.

“Trick-or-Treat on the Square exposes thousands of people to downtown Lansing, some of which may have never been here before,” she says. “[It] helps us continue to build a stronger image for the city and downtown, reconnect the downtown community and remind merchants that downtowns are primarily about the people, while inspiring the merchants and residents to continue to believe and be excited about the continued revitalization of our urban core.”

For the 2012 events, local businesses participated in a “Spooky Window Contest” to encourage families to come downtown and browse the fun displays. “The purpose of Trick-or-Treat on the Square is to provide a fun, festive and safe atmosphere for hundreds of Lansing area families to celebrate the best of the fall season and expose thousands to the downtown environment.”

Fall Nostalgia Drives Sales

Pumpkins, cider, and donuts. They’re staples of fall in Michigan as we carve our jack o' lanterns for Halloween. And they’re big business for local cider mills.

Mike Beck, president of Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns estimates they earn 60 percent of their annual revenue in the months of September and October and add 100 temporary staff each year to handle the rush.

“The cider and donuts are the biggie, and the apples,” explains Beck, who handles fruit growing, fruit processing, and wine making. “They love coming here because there are so many things to do.”

Worried the apple shortage will spoil fall fun? While Uncle John’s lost the majority of its crops this year, it has brought in Michigan apples from elsewhere in the state to meet customers’ needs. “There are still around three to four million apples in the state to be had and any given year that would handle the people that want to buy them in Michigan.”

And if you stop by the City Market location or anywhere Uncle John’s is sold, this fall you can enjoy more treat than trick as the company launches its popular hard cider in cans.

“We try to make small additions every year so there’s always something fresh and new here.”

Happy Halloween, indeed.

Kate Tykocki is a freelance writer for Capital Gains. She is also the interim jobs editor.

Photos © Dave Trumpie

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.

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