The real story of this year’s Super Bowl may be what Americans are expected to spend in celebration of the big day — a record $ 14.31 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
Even more remarkable: The tab for the party has increased by nearly 65% over the last eight years — in 2007, it was $ 8.71 billion — despite the fact that TV viewership for the event has grown at a significantly lesser pace since 2007, up 19% from 93 to 111 million.
The Super Bowl tab covers everything from chicken wings (we’ll devour 1.25 billion of them during the big day, according to the National Chicken Council) to shiny new TVs (we’ll purchase 9.5 million of them in the weeks leading up to the game, according to the National Retail Federation). In all, the retail federation estimates that Americans will spend $ 89.05 per person on average just to watch a bunch of guys chase the pigskin. (Obviously, those pricey TV purchases weigh heavily on the average.)
In short, the holiday has become “an extended Christmas,” says Mike Duda, chief executive of Johannes Leonardo, a New York-based creative agency.
So what’s driving this desire to spend? Retail industry experts and insiders say it’s because the game has become something much larger in popular culture, with a growing emphasis on what happens in between the plays (think goofy TV ads and the star-studded halftime show). In other words, we’re not just watching a bunch of guys chase the pigskin; we’re watching the biggest spectacle of the year.
In turn, that gives us an excuse to party, especially when it comes to food (and especially at a time when America has become a gourmet-obsessed nation). Gone are the days when buying a few bags of chips on game day sufficed. “Now you’re much more likely to order food in and order more specialty items,” says Andy Wiederhorn, chief executive of Buffalo’s Café, a restaurant chain that anticipates selling 32,000 wings on Super Bowl Sunday. (In 2012, that figure was 25,000 wings — proof positive of Wiederhorn’s point.)
And ordering in can go to geographical extremes. Goldbely, a mail-order company that specializes in shipping foods from restaurants and other purveyors around the country, says its business increases tenfold on Super Bowl weekend. (Naturally, one of the biggest sellers is a shipment of wings from Buffalo, N.Y.’s famed Anchor Bar.)
But adding to this bowl bonanza is the fact that retailers aren’t sitting idly by and waiting for customers to come. Increasingly, they’re treating game day as a national holiday on the order of, well, Christmas, and they’re heavily promoting sales and specials. In the case of big-screen TVs, prices are known to drop by as much as 10% in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. (It doesn’t hurt that electronics retailers often have leftover Christmas inventory to move.)
Of course, the day isn’t a gold mine for everyone. Movie theaters typically see a sizable decline in attendance, with the box-office take for films dropping by as much 30%. And performing arts centers often don’t even attempt to compete with the game, choosing to go dark instead.
But the day is ultimately a net win, says National Retail Federation spokesperson Kathy Grannis, since any business lost to the Super Bowl is likely “to be made up on another Sunday.”
Still, as big a retail deal as the Super Bowl has become, Grannis concedes the “holiday” isn’t quite ready to topple Christmas and the overall winter holiday season, which equates to a $ 600 billion-plus event. On the other hand, the Super Bowl easily beats out St. Patrick’s Day, a $ 4.8 billion retail event.