Holiday Retail

Halloween Store in upper income area Huntington Beach

Photo of Halloween Store in Huntington Beach. We estimate this at over 6,000 sqft. A former CVS which has been empty for a while. The size of this store is proof that people are spending more then ever on Halloween. Photo Cred. David Parikh. (cc)

Halloween — The Big Bucks Holiday

Back in the 80’s, mom or dad took you to Save-On or Gemco and spent $3.00 on your Halloween costume which pretty much looked like most of the other kids’s costumes–a plastic mask held on by a rubber band, and the rest of the costume which shaped like a trash bag with holes for your head and arms.  To make things more clear, the name of your character was sometimes printed on the front of your costume.  And if you couldn’t find the one from last year, you got a plastic pumpkin for fifty cents.  But that was okay because most of the other kids had the same type of thing.

Times have changed!!

Parents today don’t want their kids to be left out; and they buy costumes too.  In addition to that, they decorate their home with Halloween themed items.  Some people even put up strings of Halloween lights.  At least in California, Halloween has become much bigger than it ever was.  This is due in part to our large immigrant population that celebrates Día de los Muertos a Northern Mexican holiday which dates back to the Aztecs.  This is one of the biggest holidays south of the border, and immigrant families in the US will buy what we perceive as Halloween costumes and decorations for their children and have special foods.

Many independent businesses have taken advantage of this increased holiday spending.  Many single people and families spend hundreds of dollars on Halloween stuff.  In early September you will usually see banners go up on empty store fronts, and by October the stores have opened up.  People rush to get the good costumes before they are gone.    If you are planning to get into this business during August September or October, it is probably too late for this year.   Although you will want to check out other stores to see what prices they are getting, so you don’t overpay for stuff if you decide to open a store next year.  (If you have kids, you will be doing this anyway.)  You will also want to look out for the clearance sales at the big box retailers in the first couple weeks of November to see if you can get some bargains.  If they over order, they will need to dump the stuff to clear the stores for the next holiday–Christmas.  Thanks Giving seems to be skipped over for most the big box stores.

Step 1 Finding Space

See our leasing space section for more info on finding places.  Most property managers make a percentage of the lease, so a short term lease may not be very appealing to them.  So you can expect to pay more than the rent listed in their ads.  And you can expect that they will want you to rent for at least three months.  Some tenants shoot for Sep-Dec so they can do both halloween and Christmass.  You might be paying double the base rent.  There is a lot of empty space available, but rental agents generally do not advertise short term rentals–they earn a percentage of the rents as commission so it’s mot worth their time find renters for a month or two.   And other tenants in the center will not be jumping up with joy to see you come in to take their customer’s holiday dollars. So you will have to make phone calls.   But it’s a crap shoot.  You have no way of knowing if another holiday store will open up down the street.

Logically, you want to shoot for middle class or upper middle class areas.  And avoid being next to a big box retailer where people can say, ” I’ll check the price at BigBoxMart and then come back.”  But it’s a gamble because you might discover that someone is setting up a Holiday at the shopping center down the street.

Resale Permit

Be sure to get a resale permit before you start buying your inventory.  Otherwise, most wholesalers will be forced to charge you California Sales Tax.  That can increase your cost by 8%+.  You will also need to clear it with the city and get your permit early.  If the city cannot assure you that you can get a permit, just move on to another city.  Some cities will have the flexibility to get you in business and others will not.  It’s getting competitive as cities have to compete for the sales tax revenue, so they should be willing to work with you.  Try to get an agreement with the city before you invest a lot in rent and inventory.  Delays could kill your business.  Obviously, nobody wants halloween stuff in November or a Christmas tree after Dec 15th.

Finding Halloween and Holiday Inventory

Remember that you can sell more than costumes at your halloween store.  People will come in to shop for the costume, but may buy other items.  The one decision you have to make is weather or not to also market naughty outfits to adults.  This may make some families with younger children feel uncomfortable, but they have a high mark-up and the young adults that buys them may have a high level of disposable income.

The problem you face is that you are not exactly sure what will sell.  And at what price point.  People spend on holiday items, but they like to shop around for the best price and selection.  Be sure to shop around as wholesalers seem to sell the same item at different prices.  You want to order early so you can get some items through regular mail.

The best place to look is the wholesale district in LA.  See our swap meet page for more info and wholesale buying in LA page for more info.  But be careful.

Here are some suppliers we found that might be a good place to start.  You want to get an idea of wholesale prices before you head to  LA.

Eros Wholesale  They have a lot of lingerie type items, wigs, and goolish latex masks.

Flomo  This company supplies gift shops all over the US and has a big selection of Christmas and Halloween items.  They are located near NYC but you can check out their products at the ADS trade show in Las Vegas which happens every spring.  For info about the trade show,  If they don’t have want you need, the trade show is free if you register on line, and the trip to vegas is a tax deduction.

Soursingmap  They try to sell retail and wholesale.  You get 25% off if you buy more than six.  we don’t know much about their system.

Inter Trade Corp  They have a lot of items.

This company sells all the seasonal items to drug stores and dollar stores. They have a lot of seasonal items.  If this Halloween link goes bad, just go to their main website and search.

Four Seasons.  They sell to smaller grocery stores and discount stores.  When we checked in September, they had run out of Halloween stuff and were selling Christmas stuff.  But they have a good selection.  They are south of, but not in, the LA wholesale district.   (A little nicer part of LA)

Prank It Wholesale  They sell creepy things like plastic snakes, fake bugs, fake mice and the like. There is only a $50 minimum order, but you have to pay for shipping.  If you ask they can ship via the post office to save a few bucks.






Christmas Tree Lot and Pumpkin Lot

Many people look at these as great businesses to get into because of the huge mark-ups.  But it is not exactly easy money.  Although pumpkins and Christmas Trees are completely different things, we will look at this as one business because you need the same thing to get into each business–space in field or parking lot.

Finding Rental Space for your Tree Lot or Pumpkin Lot

Well we haven’t seen space advertised in any of the usual places.  You will have to drive around and try to find some under utilized parking lot or empty land and call the number on the Available sign.   But be careful.  In many parts of the county, shopping centers are owned by multiple people.  One owner may own the left side of the center and the other owner may own the right side.  If this is the case, you need to get Written Permission from all the owners since both owners because each owner owns the right to park the other guys part of the lot.  Don’t bother talking to the existing tenants, they will not have the right to rent out space in the lot.  Another issue is if the lot is busy, rental tenants may litigate against you for interrupting their business during the most profitable time of the year.

Even if a business owner or agent says “it’s okay to be on my side of the lot,” unless you have written permission from all the property owners you will probably pay for it.  Think of it as signing a blank checks and mailing it to them.

We have seen a lot of people rent space from the beginning of October until the end of December.  You will be paying for empty space some of the time, but by renting for three months you will have greater negotiating power.  If your are doing this as a fundraiser, that’s ideal.  Your church or school may already have some insurance in place, and you can use their lot.

Things to consider before you get into the business:

  • There is a lot more price competition then there used to be.  Supermarkets, Home Centers … have begun selling trees.  So it is harder to compete on price.  And there are now services that allow the busy shopper to buy a tree on line and have it delivered.  These companies will even take it into your house and set it up.  This is taking the top of the market–customers who would pay top dollar.  The ones who can order from work and don’t drive an old car they can strap the tree to.  Pumpkins and Trees in Orange County are no longer a commodity. Families go to these places for an experience.  Some lots have Santa, pony rides, real rain deer…
  • Many Stores like Wall Mart are bringing in pumpkins by the truck load and selling them near cost.
  • Insurance Costs Welcome to California Unless you have a big family, you will want to hire people.  And you will want to be sure they are covered with Worker’s Comp.  In California where a lot of people seem to become injured on the job and disabled for long periods of time, this will be expensive.  Your employees could injur their back lifting pumpkins and trees or they could get hurt cutting off the bottom of a tree with the chain saw.  Estimate how many employees you will need and get insurance quotes before your start.  Insurance will be expensive.
  • Liability Insurance.  Again a California thing.  People will manage to fall down in your lot, and if you scratch their car with the Christmas tree, you will owe them a new paint job.  But customers and volunteers may actually get injured.  Eye injuries are common with people swinging trees around, needles end up in peoples eyes.  Many lots have the one yard policy for trees–they will carry the tree out to within three feet of your car, but will not help you or give you any advice about how to load it into your car.  Often guys working at your yard will pick up side jobs delivering trees, but make sure it is clear that when they leave your lot they are not working for you.  Print this on the receipt and post signs.  Again, get quotes for this before you decide to get into the business.
Other expenses include Fencing and Security.  Most of these businesses will rent a fence from a company that will come out and install the fence.  For instance SoCal Rentals  of Anaheim rents fences and restrooms as does National Fence Rental and several other companies that serve construction sights.  You might also consider renting an RV.  Chances are you know someone who has one in the driveway or storage.  The advantage to renting a RV is that you have a kitchen, bathroom, office, and heated area for night time use.  If you rent one from a company they can easily run $200/day.
And security can get expensive–you need workers comp.
You will need approval from the city you need to do business in.  This comes in the form of a permit.  You may also need to get a business license for yourself or your business.

Wholesale Pumpkin Suppliers in/near Orange County

Please let us know who is missing.  Just shoot us an e-mail.


Not OC, but a nice photo of Pumpkins For Sale in Utah. Great shot, and Great Prices. (cc) Shelleylyn. You don’t have to drive that far to get inventory.

Pumpkin prices very based on demand and growing conditions.  You can get them directly form a farm or from a produce broker.  You will need to call around for the best prices.  Don’t forget about shipping costs.  And you will want to have some extras like hay, lights …

So Cal Pumpkins.  This is a produce broker that specializes in pumpkins for lots and fundraising.

LA Produce Market.  You may need to visit the LA Produce Market to find some suppliers for your stand.  Most of the brokers know their customers and don’t have a web presence.

 Christmas Trees

Nice photo of a Christmas tree lot.

Nice photo of a Christmas tree lot. The shot shows some premium grade A trees. (cc) Steven DePolo

Most of the suppliers are in Northern California and Oregon.  Most of them can arrange transport with an independent trucking company.  So when you are looking at prices be sure to think about shipping costs.  Tree costs are quite competitive, but you want to get your inventory ordered way ahead of time.

These are some tree wholesaler and grower links that sprouted on the internet listed in no particular order.

Christmas Tree House they offer fundraising packages and are located in Southern California.  They get their trees from growers.  This would be the easiest way to get started.

Santa and Sons  in Oregon

Noble Mountain in Oregon

Trees R Us in Oregon


 Fireworks Stands

Fireworks are legal in many Orange County cities.  Permits to operate the stand are given out to a limited number of not-for-profit groups such as churches, boy scout troops, and charities.  You will have to be registered with the IRS and show your 990 tax form.  For more info about becoming a non profit, click here.  And you need to have a presence in the city to get permission to operate a stand.  Furthermore, some cities require that you spend a certain percentage of the money in their city.  There are a couple of companies that operate theses stands, and you should go directly to them if your non profit group wants a stand.  Markups on fireworks are pretty good– 40%-60% from wholesale to retail.  (The people who make them in China don’t get a lot for them.)

Again there are the same parking lot issues as with Christmas Tree and Pumpkin lots above.  But usually the fireworks company provides insurance for your group.  You may ask about additional insurance to from your agent.  You may not be covered if you sell to someone under 18 or who is mentally challenged.  You may also want to rent an RV.

TNT Fullerton(800) 585-9487 The same Fullerton company also seems to distribute Freedom Fireworks and Red Devil Fireworks.  There suggested prices keeps prices in check and avoids a lot of price competition between stands.

Editor’s note: We are using the word Holiday as it seems to be used commonly.  We understand that it is the combination of two words Holy and Day.  We did not mean to imply that Halloween is holy.

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