Halloween at the Christmas Tree Shops

September 20, 2014 — Man, I hate the Christmas Tree Shops. I mean, they’re fine stores. People around here love ’em for all kinds of legitimate reasons. But I hold a real grudge.

They’re a mostly New England chain of stores. It started on Cape Cod in the 1970s (the original store spread across multiple buildings, hence why every store is called “Christmas Tree Shops”). We’re gonna get to the Halloween on this, I promise.

I remember vividly when I first moved to New England seeing one near my house. It was glorious. I moved to New England mostly for Fall and Winter, Halloween and Christmas, and here was a year-round reminder of one of them. It was red brick and shaped like an old Victorian mansion, the kind owned by the uncles of orphaned kids in stories. It was just a covering of snow away from joining Santa’s village. Its logo was a red sleigh with yellow runners bearing a green Christmas tree, an image that was repeated in the weather vane on its peaked tower and in the panels of its stained glass window. We’re gonna get to the Halloween on this, I promise.

Then I went in that first time.

Instead of a perennial winter wonderland, instead of a summer job for Santa it was…an unthemed discount store, somewhere between dollar store and department store. Its name and exterior branding were all that was left of the Christmas store it once was back on the salty peninsula. They’d diversified their offering while capitalizing on their brand association.

Nothing gets me madder than having to write in business terms

But the seasons, they do them good…especially Halloween. Told you we’d get there.

First, they have a lot of merchandise. It’s comparable to the space Target dedicates to the holiday, except with a lot more variety style-wise. That range of merchandise runs from the purely Fall images of colored leaves and smiling scarecrows to goofy and nostalgic things like sheet ghosts with googly eyes and plastic jack-o-lanterns with silly grins to spooky Halloween stuff like tall skeleton-faced grim reapers and furry spiders the size of Pomeranians. On top of that, everything is priced extremely low, so no matter how much you buy, you won’t hate yourself November 1.

We go to a lot of stores every Halloween season, stores we never would hit up during the year, just to see their Halloween sections. It’s fun to see who does the same stuff they did last year or who went in a new style direction that doesn’t quick work and who nailed it like a scarecrow to a post.

I’ll never say that Christmas Tree Shops nailed it, but they never, ever underwhelm. And that, in my opinion, is tombstone-worthy: Never Underwhelmed.