Pandemic boredom prompts Halloween decor spree online, on Instacart and in stores

NEW TAMPA — When Target restocked a two-story cardboard haunted house for cats, Megan Copello ordered it immediately for curbside pick-up.

For the last month, Copello’s package deliveries have arrived almost daily. Boxes are packed with witch’s cauldrons, spooky village miniatures and porcelain pumpkins. The 41-year-old is the first to admit she has a problem, but she’s not sorry about it. She has always loved Halloween, but spending more time at home during the pandemic has supercharged her decoration obsession and online holiday shopping.

“I think it’s a mix of boredom dealing with everything,” Copello said. “It gives the this sense of comfort of the holidays coming. It’s Halloween, then it’s Thanksgiving, and then Christmas and then this year is finally over.”

COVID-19 has pushed retailers to build up their digital, pickup and delivery systems to meet increased demand in contactless shopping. Now pop-up seasonal store, Spirit Halloween, is partnering with Instacart to deliver its items like the app does groceries.

Related: Halloween candy still hitting shelves early, despite pandemic

Copello’s office is still closed. She works in corporate event planning, so her whole work life has been upended by COVID-19. Decorating has been an outlet.

“We believe the magic of Halloween is transformative,” Spirit CEO Steven Silverstein said in a statement about the Instacart launch. “This year, more than any other, we need the escape that Halloween brings.”

That National Retail Federation’s annual Halloween spending survey taken in early September found that shoppers plan to spend about 4 percent more on Halloween decor than they did last year. Copello said she has noticed items in-store selling out faster than usual.

Copello has a 16-piece Halloween village set up. She bought most of the pieces this year. [ Megan Copella ]

“I got a giant pumpkin door greet from Sam’s (Club) three weeks ago,” Copello said. “We went back to Sam’s the next day and no more Halloween stuff, like they couldn’t keep it in stock.”

The retail federation estimates Halloween spending will reach $8.05 billion this year, which is down from $8.78 billion the year before. The dip is expected because fewer people plan to celebrate due to the virus. But those who are celebrating are spending, on average, $92.12. That’s almost $6 more than last year.

Copello is well above that spending average and she suspects her neighbors are, too. She said seeing others going all-out this year inspired her to keep going, too.

“I have nowhere else to put Halloween decorations,” Copello said. “I’m at capacity.”

But when Aldi put out some new Halloween items on Wednesday, she couldn’t resist picking a wreath and a pair of plastic skeletons dressed as a bride and groom.

She’s still waiting on light-up witches to arrive in the mail for her outdoor setup. Her lawn decor, though packed with skulls, tombstones and skeleton gnomes, is still only half complete.

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