Just behind Christmas, Halloween is the largest grossing holiday, annually averaging 6.9 billion spent by Americans celebrating all things spooky every year.
Despite what would seem to be common sense, there isn’t a direct correlation between the increase in consumer money spent and an increase in seasonal jobs in Boise.
According to Neil Palmer, employee at Halloween Express in Boise, a lot of the hiring process for Halloween stores stems from connections.
“Basically, everyone here is either related or knows each other by friends,” said Palmer.
Palmer claims that everyone who works in The Halloween Express already has a full-time job and is here to “to help out the shop.”
This trend is also evident in the Idaho Historical State Society’s Halloween-themed event “Frightened Felons” held annually. Amber Beierle, visitor services coordinator for the Old Idaho Penitentiary, explained that the two-day event is put on by only existing staff and volunteers.
“We rely heavily on volunteers,” Beierle said.
This fact might change in the future, however. The success and sheer volume of people who attend event has caused the Idaho Historical Society to discuss expanding “Frightened Felons” into a week-long event. This change would require hiring additional staff.
“If we want to increase anything we will have to hire people seasonally because you can’t depend on volunteers to do more than the two days. We’re really stretching it as it is,” Beierle said.
Income brought in
Although “Frightened Felons” is only open for two nights, it brings in roughly 1,250 people and between $17,000 and $30,000 per year, accounting for 10 percent of the penitentiary’s profits yearly.
The month of October is the busiest month for the Penitentiary.
“There’s no doubt there’s a direct correlation with people wanting to do something creepy, spooky or routinely listed at the most haunted place in Boise,” Beierle said. “Just yesterday (the Penitentiary) was listed as the most haunted place in Idaho.”
The Halloween season also allows Idaho farmer Jim Lowee to branch out in business.
Lowee is owner of the Farmstead Festival Cornmaze. He said that the cornmaze and related attractions create a way for farmers to get into agro-tourism.
“The majority of farmers (who decide to create corn mazes) are looking for a way to diversify because farming is risky, and running a corn maze is risky,” Lowee said. “If one is down then maybe the other is up.”
According to Lowee, the designed field brings in more profit as a cornmaze than it would if it were just harvested as feed corn for cattle; however, the corn maze requires an exorbitant amount of time to create.
“Its a lot more of a time investment to get the return on investment,” Lowee said.
Investment for profit works out well for Halloween stores like Halloween Express. According to Palmer, by Halloween, the store has usually been cleaned out of merchandise by customers.
“We’re going to sell pretty much everything. Another five days and it will look really bare in here,” Palmer said.
After Halloween, when the majority of the merchandise has been sold, the stores selves and remaining merchandise are put into a storage unit in Idaho until used the next year along with new shipments. Halloween Express identical to every other store.
The average customer at Halloween Express spends around $75 per trip, however Palmer feels that this it “doesn’t take much to spend $100.”
Not just a children’s holiday
Part of the explanation for these hefty receipts comes from the heavy price tags attached to adult costumes which are about, $20 more than children’s costumes on average. Palmers said that adult females often spend the most on Halloween.
“The store is about half costumes for woman,” Palmer said.
Beierle also found that the customers most interested in “Frightened Felons” were adults as well.
“We have looked hard at making it an adult-only event, number one because it’s more profitable,” Beierle said. “We make more money. We sell out. We don’t have to worry about more advertising dollars to get people to come in.”