Halloween Has Gone Commercial…and It’s Awesome: Part II

Continued (abruptly) from Part I

"Welcome to oblivion...
er...Halloween Express."
October 3, 2010 – Here in New England, we have a place called the Christmas Tree Shop, which despite its name and the fact that its symbol is a red sleigh, isn’t a Christmas store. Instead, it’s an unthemed discount shop just a few pegs above a dollar store. Its Halloween section is definitely worth checking out, just because it has a large variety of merchandise, none of which is expensive. Anytime a Halloween section is more than three aisles, it’s worth visiting. And taking out a “Thank You” ad in a national magazine.

Speaking of dollar stores…like craft stores, the holidays are the only time you'll find me there. If I'm going to buy something that I'm only going to use for a month or so, cheap is certainly a good selling point. Plus, you’ll never know what you’ll find there. This year, one of our local dollar stores stocked a bunch of NECA Nightmare Before Christmas action figures for a few bucks each. As a result, this year’s Halloween is a lot more Tim Burton-y for me.

So this is Christmas...Tree Shop.
Wal-Mart always has a Halloween section, but, honestly, I don't ever remember much about it and haven't visited that store this season yet. For some reason, I remember it as always looking rummaged through and not very Halloween-inspiring. As for K-mart, I always forget it’s a store.

Next on my Halloween shopping list is Toys R Us, who you’d think would be one of the big contenders for your Halloween dollars. However, they basically just put together an aisle of children’s costumes. Boo (in the non-Halloween sense).

Another big Halloween disappointment are seasonal stores, mostly represented by Spirit and its grim reaper mascot whose presence on random signs always signals the coming of darker days. Simply put, they should be awesome. First, they're entire stores dedicated to Halloween. If you’re that, you should set the bar. Second, they swoop mysteriously in every year, take over an abandoned store, sell strange wares to children, and then swoop mysteriously out. That's a great story worth more than a few movie treatments. The only thing missing (as far as we know, anyway) is a company CEO who is hundreds of years old and eats the nightmares of children with milk.

The ghost of a furniture store.
Unfortunately, the majority of these seasonal stores offer nothing more than costumes-in-a-bag. I hate those things for some reason. Of course, every once in a while you'll find one that at least stocks a few cool props. I recently visited a Halloween Express that moved into an out-of-business furniture store, and they had a bunch of gigantic inflatable creatures and a life-sized Pinhead from Hellraiser. That’s like the tenth time on this blog that I’ve been forced to call something based on a fictional thing life-sized. It makes me question me.

Drug stores, on the other hand, are surprisingly amazing when it comes to Halloween merchandise. Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid...these stores often have great Halloween aisles, with officially licensed merchandise, a large candy selection, and a sizeable proportion of the store dedicated to the holiday. I went to a Walgreens the other day that had a car-sized inflatable black cat with a moving head dominating the store from the top of one of the aisles. Most places have stuff like this, sure, but when you take into account the small size of your average drug store, it’s a pretty bold move. Drug stores also seem to be way okay with the gruesome, both in their props and their candy. I guess when a large percentage of your stock is condoms and toilet paper, you don't much care what else goes in your aisles, even if that “else” is a party platter of gummy human body parts.

Walgreens: For when you need to pick up
an asthma prescription and a demonic jack-in-the-box.
However, the undisputed Pumpkin King of Halloween consumerism is...Target. Somebody at Target corporate HQ gets this season. First, it always has a large section for Halloween. Second, it also gets the idea of ambiance and arranges its aisles in such a way that it makes you think you’re entering a land far away from any electronics or housewares section. Third, Target also stocks exclusive merchandise and features everything from unique foodstuffs to large animatronic props. Gummy dissection kits, Halloween Jones soda, and Choc-o-Lantern Pop-Tarts, most of the coolest Halloween-themed treats I've ever found I've found at Target.

It even often licenses Halloween mascots for each year. Past years have featured such properties as Domo-kun, Edgar and Ellen, and original creations, as well. This year, I didn’t see an official mascot per se, but the fact that its celebrating the season with a giant “Happy Halloweekend” banner shows that the Halloween committee there put in some advance thought into the displays. Target’s only  downfall is that, at least for the past few years, their merchandise is often too cartoony. You'll find very little that is vintage or obscenely gruesome. Still...Bravo, Target. I don’t know how big or profitable the Halloween demographic is, but you’ve got us.
Pic doesn't do Target justice, but it's a busy store and
an embarrasing  place to take pics. Especially when you're
standing in Children's Apparel (the department).
There are a few other stores that we usually go to every Halloween, but I omitted them because I discovered that all I had to say about them was that we went there. Plus, I’ll venture into any store that puts three orange things on a table and calls it a Halloween section. But that’s it for this tour of stores. Kind of a silly thing to write 2,000 words about, but all I really had planned for the past two nights was Halloween Bejeweled anyway.