Two weeks before masked, candy-craving children prowl the streets of Gainesville, a major retailer has announced it will stop selling clown masks.
In light of “creepy clown” sightings across the country — including in Gainesville — Target stores will no longer sell clown masks, according to USA Today. The decision was made last week, Target representative Joshua Thomas told the news agency.
By Tuesday, all clown-related merchandise had been removed from the Target in Butler Plaza.
“Given the current environment, we have made the decision to remove a variety of clown masks from our assortment, both in stores and online,” Thomas said in an email statement to USA Today.
After first making headlines in South Carolina in August, the clown craze reached Gainesville on Sept. 27, when a woman called police and said a clown was standing outside Georgetown Apartments staring at her, according to Alligator archives.
About two weeks ago, A.J. Hall, an employee at the Butler Plaza Target, said she saw a person dressed as a clown on Depot Avenue.
“It was just chasing people,” she said. “I’m sweating thinking about it.”
Hall said although clowns are her worst fear, she’s comforted by the fact that she has a concealed-carry gun permit.
While Target decided to deflect the demand for clown accessories, local costume-store owner Michael Brooks has said he expected a surge in clown-related sales at his three stores in Gainesville, according to archives.
Virginia Keselowsky, a Gainesville resident and a Target shopper, said as a mother, she thinks Target made the right decision.
“Maybe if I wasn’t a mom, I wouldn’t care as much,” she said. “If I saw a clown trick-or-treating, I probably wouldn’t answer the door.”