Spencer Gifts

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Spencer Gifts, LLC
Private
Industry Retail
Founded 1947
Founder Max Spencer Adler
Headquarters Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, United States
Number of locations
600+
Key people
Steven Silverstein, CEO
Owner Acon Investments
Slogan "Life's A Party! We're Makin' It Fun."
Website www.spencersonline.com

Spencer Gifts, commonly referred to as Spencer's, is a North American mall retailer with over 600 stores in the United States and Canada. It offers rock and roll clothing, custom T-shirts, band merchandise, Playboy decor and apparel, sex toys, gag gifts, room decor, collectible figures, fashion and body jewelry, and fantasy and horror items.[1] The company also operates the Spirit Halloween line of temporary Halloween retailers.

History[edit]

Spencer Gifts was originally founded in 1947 in Easton, Pennsylvania by Max Spencer Adler as a mail-order catalog that sold an assortment of novelty merchandise.[2][3] In 1960, Max's brother Harry Adler, who had been with the company since 1947, sold his shares and left.[4]

In 1963, Spencer Gifts opened its first retail store in the Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where it operates to this day.[5]

After opening approximately 450 stores under the name Spencer Gifts, Adler merged Spencer Gifts with entertainment conglomerate MCA in 1967.[6] At some point later, the store began to be referred to as "Spencer's".

In 1990, Spencer Gifts closed its mail-order catalog division.[7]

In 1993 and 1996, respectively, Spencer Gifts acquired the DAPY line of stores and opened its first GLOW! store. [8] The DAPY and GLOW! trademarks were retired sometime before 2007. [9]

In 1995, MCA was acquired by Seagram Company Ltd. and was renamed Universal Studios. Spencer Gifts began to operate Universal Studios stores as a subsidiary of its parent company.[8]

In 1997, Spencer Gifts opened its first store in Canada.[8]

In 1999, Spencer's acquired a Halloween seasonal retailer, Spirit Halloween.

In 2000, Spencer's expanded into the United Kingdom.[10] The chain opened up to fourteen stores in the United Kingdom before closing them sometime in the mid-2000s.[11]

Typical merchandise at a Spencer's Gift shop

In 2001, Vivendi acquired Universal Studios and rebranded the entire organization as Vivendi Universal Entertainment. Less than two years later, in 2003, GB Palladin, a joint venture between Gordon Brothers Group and Palladin Capital Group, acquired Spencer Gifts from Vivendi. Steven Silverstein became Spencer Gifts' CEO and also the CEO and president of Spirit Halloween.[12]

In the fall of 2004, Spencer Gifts began its store redesign by opening four new stores in Deptford, New Jersey, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, Concord, New Hampshire and Des Moines, Iowa.[13]

In 2005, Spencer's opened its first store in Puerto Rico at Plaza Carolina. The chain had three more stores on the island located in Plaza del Norte, Montehiedra Town Center and Las Catalinas Mall[citation needed]. As of 2015, all of its Puerto Rican outlets appear to be closed.

In 2006, Spencer's began its "Spirit of Children" program, which raises donations through its Spirit Halloween stores for, and hosts Halloween parties in, children's hospitals in Canada and the United States. Since 2007, the program has raised over $16 million for over 130 children's hospitals.[14]

Acon Investments acquired the company in 2007.[9]

Spirit Halloween[edit]

Spirit Halloween is a seasonal retailer that was founded by Joseph Marver in 1983. By 1999, Spirit had 60 temporary locations and was acquired by Spencer Gifts.[15] Spirit's stores are only open for the two months leading up to Halloween, though it maintains a website year-round. As of 2013, Spirit's over 1000 locations comprised about half of Spencer's $250 million annual revenue.[16]

Legal issues[edit]

The company has been investigated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for its advertising practices.

In 1962, Spencer Gifts was found by the Federal Trade Commission to have violated the Federal Trade Commission Act by making misleading statements in advertising its "Reduce-Eze" girdles and ordered to cease making false claims. The girdles were advertised with statements such as "Slim 4 Inches Without Diet" and "Trims 4 Inches Off Your Figure".[4]

In 1969, Spencer Gifts was found by the FTC to, through the use of words like "stone", "birthstone", and "gold", have misrepresented its jewelry products. As its jewelry did not contain any "genuine precious or semiprecious stones", nor was its metal 24 karat gold, Spencer Gifts was ordered to stop use of deceptive statements in the promotion of its jewelry.[17]

In 1970, Spencer Gifts was found by the FTC to have misled its customers as to the efficacy of its "non-prescription magnifying spectacles" by failing to disclose that correction of vision defects is limited to older persons who do not have any eye diseases, like astigmatism, but only need "simple magnifying or reducing lenses". The FTC ordered the retailer to cease the use of advertisements that misrepresented the quality of its optical products.[18]

Controversies[edit]

Spencer Gifts has come under fire for its merchandise, which has been described as sexually explicit and racist.

In 1989, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) mailed thousands of pamphlets to Arab-Americans across the United States to campaign against Spencer's 'sheik' and 'Arafat' Halloween masks, which were marketed as part of its "Fright Stuff" line of products. The pamphlet featured a picture of the 'sheik' mask and claimed that it "was the only ethnic one in the product line and being marketed alongside traditional monster masks reinforced the notion Arab people are scary."[19] Spencer Gifts pulled the two masks from its stores in October following a "three-day protest and telephone campaign" by the ADC, but decided later that month to place the masks back on sale, prompting the ADC to boycott and picket Spencer's stores. In a letter to ADC spokesperson Faris Bouhafa, Spencer's general counsel Ronald Mangel said that "after re-reviewing the 'Sheik' and 'Arafat' masks and discussing the look of the masks with others", Spencer's president John Hacala decided to reverse the earlier decision and place the masks back in stores. "We will not reorder the masks for next year," the letter added.[20]

Spencer Gifts has been criticized for allowing children access to adult toys and other explicit products. While adults-only products are ostensibly kept in areas off-limits to children, there have been several instances where that is not the case.[21][22][23] In one instance, police seized adult materials from the Spencer Gifts in Rapid City, South Dakota as "possible evidence for the national retailer's failure to register as an adult-oriented business".[24]

In February 2014, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the largest Irish organization in the United States, called on Spencer's to cease the sale of merchandise it felt propagated stereotypes about Irish Americans, such as a T-shirt with the slogan "F*** me I'm Irish" and a hat sporting the phrase "Irish Girl Wasted". AOH National Anti-Defamation Chairman Neil Cosgrove protested, "We note that Spencer's Gifts is a recidivist when it comes to denigrating the heritage and culture of Irish Americans. Spencer's St. Pat's [sic] merchandise seems to plumb new lows with each year." [25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "About Spencer's". Spencer's. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Robertson, Seth (Fall 2008). "From Broadway to Wall Street". Vanderbilt Business Magazine (Nashville, Tennessee). Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Kuperinsky, Amy (28 October 2007). "A store that 'gets' pop culture". The Press of Atlantic City (Pleasantville, New Jersey). Retrieved 16 March 2015 – via Rochester Institute of Technology. 
  4. ^ a b Federal Trade Commission (13 November 1962). In the Matter of Spencer Gifts, Inc., et al. (Report). pp. 1161–1166. 8281. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "About Spencer's". Spencer Gifts. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  6. ^ Zhito, Lee, ed. (23 December 1967). "MCA Enters Merger With Spencer Gifts". Billboard 79 (51): 6. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 15 March 2015 – via Google Books. 
  7. ^ Cornish, Neil (14 June 1990). "Spencer Gifts To Close Jcc Catalog Division". Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia). Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c "Corporate Information". spencergifts.com. Archived from the original on 5 March 2001. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Adler, Neil (23 August 2007). "Acon Investments plans to grow Spencer Gifts". Washington Business Journal (Washington, D.C.). Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  10. ^ "Spencer Gifts Goes Global with First Retail Store in the United Kingdom". spencergifts.co.uk. March 2000. Archived from the original on 5 March 2001. 
  11. ^ "Store Locations". spencergifts.co.uk. Archived from the original on 19 February 2003. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  12. ^ "Gordon Brothers and Palladin acquire Spencer Gifts". Boston Business Journal (Boston, Massachusetts). 2 June 2003. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "Spencer's Marks 60th Anniversary". PR Newswire. 21 December 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  14. ^ "About Spirit of Children". Spirit Halloween. 2013. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  15. ^ Trevison, Catherine (22 October 2000). "Temporary retailers fight over space as holidays approach". The Seattle Times (Seattle, Washington). Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  16. ^ O'Connor, Clare (11 October 2013). "No Trick, Just Treat: Halloween Pop-Ups Now Account For Half Spencer Gifts' Annual Sales". Forbes (New York City). Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  17. ^ Federal Trade Commission (29 April 1969). In the Matter of Spencer Gifts, Inc. (Report). pp. 769–772. C-1527. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  18. ^ Federal Trade Commission (24 February 1970). In the Matter of Spencer Gifts, Inc. (Report). pp. 165–168. C-1694. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  19. ^ Reitz, Stephanie K. (25 October 1989). "Ethnic Complaints Prompt Spencer Gifts To Pull 'Sheik' Masks". The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania). Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  20. ^ "Arab-American Group to Protest 'Offensive' Masks". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. 28 October 1989. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  21. ^ "Undercover Video Shows Kids Getting Access To Adult Toys". newsnet5 (Cleveland, Ohio). Archived from the original on 1 February 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2015 – via Wayback Machine. 
  22. ^ Vedder, Tracy (28 April 2011). "Local stores found selling sex toys, porn to children". KOMO-TV (Seattle, Washington). Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  23. ^ Richards, Brandon (2 March 2011). "Sex toys on display at Spencer's?". KPLC (Lake Charles, Louisiana). Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  24. ^ Rusch, Emilie (9 November 2010). "Police seize mall store's sex toys". Rapid City Journal (Rapid City, South Dakota). Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  25. ^ O'Shea, James (22 February 2014). "Massive Irish American effort to end insulting St. Patrick’s Day gifts". IrishCentral. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 

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