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Totally Halloween, which has stores in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Chester, features a section of ghoulish goodies set up like a meat shop to entice the holiday’s enthusiasts.

By CAROLYN SHAPIRO, The Virginian-Pilot
© September 20, 2007

VIRGINIA BEACH

Dollar Tree Stores Inc. is trying to scare up consumer interest in another new retail concept that sells items for more than $1 - this time focusing on Halloween merchandise.

Totally Halloween opened late last month in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Chester, offering all things spooky at prices ranging from 99 cents to more than $169. The stores will close right after Halloween.

Shoppers will find walls of costumes for children and adults, an array of rubber masks and makeup kits, witches' brooms and devils' pitchforks, bags of candy, and all sorts of decorations that move, light up, moan and cackle. Totally Halloween has a "meat shop" display, much like a supermarket cold case, that holds bloody limbs, severed arms and legs, Finger Food of detached digits, jugs of spare eyeballs and voodoo heads.
"We're very competitive," said Larry Scott, merchandise director for Totally Halloween, pointing out a humorous, oversized ballerina costume for $19.99 and a scary mask for $4.99.

The new stores give Dollar Tree greater reach into a holiday with exploding sales. In 2006, Halloween spending jumped by more than 50 percent from the previous year, to $4.96 billion, ranking the holiday eighth last year in terms of seasonal spending, according to figures from the National Retail Federation.

Totally Halloween primarily competes with large party outlets and seasonal specialty stores rather than discounters such as Wal-Mart and Target, which tend to focus on children's goods and have a more limited selection, Scott said.

"We think we're trying to make a better shopping experience," he said.

Totally Halloween's staff typically dresses in costumes and spooky makeup. Earlier this week, assistant manager Donnie Walker wore a screwdriver through his head - with the handle sticking out of his bloody forehead and the pointed end protruding from an oozing gash in his cheek.

Nothing in Totally Halloween indicates an affiliation with Dollar Tree, the company based in Chesapeake that owns the nation's largest chain selling everything for a dollar.

"It's basically a pilot store for them, and we want to see how it works," said Scott, who said he came to Dollar Tree after many years in the Halloween manufacturing business. "This is a learning experience for the company."

Dollar Tree took a similar approach with another fledgling concept, Occasions, which specializes in stuff for parties and events. Occasions opened with one location in Chesapeake in September 2006 and plans to open a second store in Virginia Beach later this month.

In both cases, Dollar Tree has used the new concepts to expand on a product category that sells well in its self-named chain, said Chelle Davis, a company spokeswoman. The separate, specialized stores, in effect, release the retailer from the $1 price restriction, allowing it to offer a greater variety of items.

Indeed, a $99.99 air-blown, eight-foot Carriage Hearse - driven by a top-hatted skeleton with skulls and bones in the back - greets shoppers at the door of Totally Halloween on Virginia Beach Boulevard.

This year, Oct. 31 falls on a Wednesday. With a leap year in 2008, it moves to a Friday night and continues in the following two years through the weekend, likely boosting the number of parties - and purchases of ghoulish gear, Scott said.

"Now, it's a huge industry," he said of the holiday sales, "and it'll grow into the next three years."


 

 

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