Halloween Corner Costumes Accessories clerk Meghan Williams holds two of their more popular masks at their store on Washington Pike in the Washington Market shopping center Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017.
Michael Patrick/Knoxville News Sentinel
Halloween colors: black, orange, and, well, green. The spooky holiday is big business for a few weeks, drawing customers to temporary stores, seasonal attractions and special events.
For one store, this Halloween is a springboard into the year-round Knoxville market.
Halloween Corner Costumes Accessories, in the Washington Market shopping center at 5308 Washington Pike near Knoxville Center, is an offshoot of the Party Corner stores in Maryville and Johnson City, according to store manager Crystal Cummings.
Halloween Corner opened the first week of September, peddling Halloween-themed costumes and decorations; just after the holiday, it will transform into a permanent Party Corner, she said.
Business was a little slow in September but is picking up as Halloween approaches, Cummings said. While adults are likely to buy on the first trip, children are likely to be back for multiple visits, she said.
“Like my son – he’s picked a costume, but he’ll change his mind 50 times before Halloween,” Cummings said.
Customers have been split pretty evenly between children and adults, and trends are evident, she said.
“Any of our American Horror Story costumes are moving quickly,” Cummings said. Clown costumes are selling well this year, with the revival of Stephen King’s “It.” Girls are going for Disney Descendants costumes.
“And boys, they just love superheroes,” Cummings said. Children’s costumes run $15.99 to $40, but adult outfits can be much higher – the store has an “amazing” Lizzie Borden costume which was often tried on but not sold because of its high price, she said.
Halloween Corner isn’t the only place to buy costumes and decorations; most department and grocery stores have a section of seasonal gear. And Knoxville has two Halloween City stores, temporary pop-up expansions of Party City. One is in the Northwest Crossings center on Clinton Highway, while the other is in Town and Country Commons on Kingston Pike.
Halloween spending rose to record in 2016
Halloween, though often rumored to be the second biggest holiday for spending, is actually far from it, according to the National Retail Federation. The “winter holidays” far outweigh all others, but Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Father’s Day all draw more dollars than Halloween, NRF studies found.
Still, Halloween spending rose in 2016 to a record $8.4 billion, with average individual spending up nearly $9 from the 2015 average to $83. Candy, costumes and decorations made up most of the retail spending, with cards a distant fourth.
Scary fun for the Halloween season in Farragut.
More than a third of shoppers go to special costume stores, while nearly half buy at discount stores, according to the NRF. About a quarter of people buy Halloween gear online.
Those numbers don’t include spending on individual attractions such as haunted houses and hayrides of which there are plenty around Knoxville.
The FrightWorks Haunted House at 1904 W. Emory Road in Powell is open for its 16th season. Owner Rob Knolton said its first six years were a charity fundraiser, not a personal moneymaker.
“I’ll be honest. Probably the initial driver was just a love for Halloween and things that are creepy and scary,” Knolton said. “It was really just more for fun for me, and all the profits went to the organizations.”
But after a three-year hiatus, he decided he would like to make a living scaring people, he said. So he dug out his old props, rented a space, called back his volunteer group of “passionate haunters” and opened in a few weeks’ time.
“The haunted house is, I would say, financially stable, and we do make some money off of it. No one’s exactly getting rich,” Knolton said.
The serious business of haunting today
Anyone thinking of opening a haunted house now needs to have financial backing and a solid business plan, he said. Gone are the days of finding a creepy old house and staffing it with friends; today’s attractions have to pass multiple inspections for health and safety codes, Knolton said.
“It really is a business nowadays,” he said.
For more than a year Knolton has also run the local EscapeWorks, which provides year-round income, he said. Escape room attractions are still fairly new, but he expects them to deliver profit margins comparable to FrightWorks.
FrightWorks opens at 7 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in October, plus Sunday, Oct. 22, then Thursday, Oct. 26 through Halloween. Tickets are $23, including tax, available at the door and www.FrightWorks.com.
Many Halloween events can be found at www.visitknoxville.com/events/halloween.
More will be listed in a story to be published in the Friday the 13th edition of “Go Knoxville” inside the News Sentinel. Among the most popular are corn mazes, though those require a drive out of town.
A popular one is Kyker Farms Corn Maze, 938 Alder Branch Road in Sevierville. It’s open Sept. 30 to Oct. 30, with differing prices for daytime and nighttime visits. A “zombie blaster” trail after dark costs extra, but a combo pass for both is $20.
Maple Lane Maze, formerly Maple Lane Farms at 1126 Maple Lane in Greenback, is open Sept. 29 to Oct. 31, with its haunted maze open Oct. 20 to 31. There are also hay rides and pumpkins.
Mother Nature’s role in season’s success
The owners of Mayfield Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, at 257 Highway 307 in Athens, are hoping for good weather.
“Mother Nature can make or break the season for us,” said Julie Mayfield. Her brother-in-law Michael Mayfield has run the attraction for nine years, she said.
Last year’s drought left visitors disappointed that they could see right through the corn maze, Julie Mayfield said. But this year should be better, if the weather holds.
Admission is $11 for adults and $9 for children ages 2 to 10. The attraction is open Wednesday through Sunday, plus Oct. 30 and 31. A haunted trail costs $13, and is open on Saturdays and on Halloween.
Other permanent venues are hosting special events, including:
- Knoxville Center mall, with a free Halloween event 5:30-8 p.m. on Oct. 31 which includes face-painting, balloon twisting, mall-wide trick or treating, a costume competition and a carved/painted pumpkin contest. Go to www.facebook.com/KnoxvilleCenter or 544-1500 for more information;
- Blount Mansion at 200 W. Hill Ave., offering “Mysterious Past of Blount Mansion” tours for $10, Oct. 28- 31;
- James White’s Fort, at 205 E. Hill Ave., having its seventh annual HearthScares Ball, for ages 21 and up, on Oct. 27. Tickets are $75 at www.jameswhitesfort.org;
- Ijams Nature Center, at 2915 Island Home Ave., which will hold its Family Creepy Crawl 6-8 p.m. Oct. 21. Tickets for the short “haunted hike” with facts about animals are $7, with advance registration required at ijams.org or 865-577-4717, ext. 110. A sugar skull Halloween workshop, 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 28, costs $15 with all supplies included;
- The University of Tennessee Gardens’ Howl-O-Ween Pooch Parade Pet Expo, 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22, in the UT Gardens at 2518 Jacob Drive. It’s a free event, but entering the costumed pet parade costs $10 in advance and $15 at the event. There will be educational, pet-business and rescue group booths, as well as food trucks. A pet food drive to benefit East Tennessee Spay Neuter will be held. For more information or to register go to tiny.utk.edu/howloween.
Even the zoo gets in on the action
Zoo Knoxville finds Halloween a good way to drive interest and funding for the rest of the year. The zoo touts “BOO! at the Zoo presented by U.S. Cellular” as Knoxville’s largest Halloween event.
“We have been doing this for over 30 years, and it has grown considerably,” said Tina Rolen, director of marketing and communications for Zoo Knoxville “It’s one of our largest annual fundraisers that we do at the zoo.”
Now up to 12 nights, the family trick-or-treating event runs 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, starting Oct. 12 and ending the Sunday before Halloween.
Last year BOO! at the Zoo tickets brought in $304,992.28, which is 3 percent of the zoo’s operating budget, according to Rolen. More than 47,000 people came in 2016 – some were repeat visitors, since each night has different events – and good weather this year should result in a similar total, she said.
BOO! at the Zoo doesn’t really compete for customers with haunted houses, Rolen said.
“We position this event as really appropriate for preschool and elementary-age children,” she said. “It’s more celebration of the season rather than trying to be scary.”
It’s also a chance to show off some animals. Not all areas will be open, but many popular large animals should be visible anyway, Rolen said. That may include the residents of the new Tiger Forest habitat, which many visitors haven’t yet seen.
Admission is $9 per person, with children under 4 admitted free; Zoo Knoxville members and U.S. Cellular customers get $2 off.
New this year is a night especially for annual passholders held on Oct. 12. Based on ticket sales so far, that seems to be a hit, Rolen said.
BOO! at the Zoo’s long history means some visitors from its early days are now bringing their own children, she said.
“It’s nice to know that it’s something that people plan as part of their family tradition every year,” Rolen said.