Scariest shopping trend? Halloween and Christmas stores everywhere

Everyone is scouting for good deals in this ghoulish economy, including mom-and-pop Halloween merchants howling for vacant spots in shopping centers and strip malls.

The Halloween stores, which will soon morph into Christmas centers, are popping up in every nook and corner and offering prices like never before.

Plummeting same-store sales, depleting consumer spending and bankrupt retailers shuttering locations have resulted in a lot of prime real estate lying empty. To scare away the horror of zero income, landlords are wooing temporary merchants to help them tide over the difficult times.

The vacancy rate at U.S. regional malls rose to 8.4% in the second quarter, the highest level since Reis Inc., a New York-based real estate research firm, began tracking regional malls in 2000. Mom-and-pop owners who earlier could only aspire to sell their wares out of a small kiosk or cart are now proudly displaying merchandise in enviable locations. Rents are cheaper and the spaces available are bigger.