Sunday, September 28, 2003

Football carries retail on robust shoulders

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Dianne and Jim McMichael of Denver take in the Monday Night Football game at Champs Sports Bar on Sept. 22.
(Mike Simons photo)
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Jason Keam is a huge football fan.

But he's a bigger fan of the football season.

Although he enjoys watching the games, the manager at Champs Sports Bar downtown really gets excited when he sees hordes of patrons piling in to watch the dozens of NFL and college football games the bar broadcasts this time of year.

"The football season for us is king,'' Keam said as he greeted jersey-clad guests for last week's Monday Night Football game, in which the Denver Broncos steamrollered the Oakland Raiders 31-10. "All the other major sports also contribute, but football is our main revenue generator as far as the sports bar goes.''

Keam said football games typically attract more customers than other televised sports, and those customers generally stay longer and spend more money on food and beverages, although he declined to be specific.

Indeed, many sports bars can earn as much as half of their annual revenues during the football season, based on industry estimates.

"No matter where I am, it seems that I always drop a load of cash on Monday night'' during the football season, said Bob Dayton, a Memphis, Tenn., businessman staying at the Hyatt Regency downtown, where Champs is located. "I probably spend thirty bucks on food and drinks before halftime. By the end of the game, it's closer to fifty. I don't usually spend that much in bars in one night. But the games seem to go on forever, and I always stay until the end.''

It's not just sports bars that benefit from the pigskin mania that annually captures the attention of more than 100 million Americans and generated more than $14 billion in advertising revenue last year.

The football season traditionally boosts sales for a variety of retailers, including merchants who sell televisions, comfortable chairs, liquor and pizza.

"We see a dramatic increase in the number of people looking at TVs, especially projection screens, just before the football season begins,'' said Mike Williams, store manager at H.H. Gregg near Tri-County Mall. "We raise our inventory levels a little bit to accommodate the demand. It tails off some in the middle of the season, but once the Super Bowl rolls around, we see sales pick up again.''

But what good is a new TV if you don't have a comfortable chair to watch it from, right?

"Sales of recliners always pick up when the football season begins. That's why we start promoting them at least a month before the first kickoff,'' said Mike Haselwood, assistant manager at Sofa Express in Florence. "I always put the game on when people come in to look at recliners on Sunday, and there's hardly an empty seat in the store.''

The pickup in sales caused by the football season is good news for retailers and may help them maintain momentum coming off a strong back-to-school shopping season.

"Retail sales have been brisk, and have exceeded the forecasts of almost all of the major retail players," said Anthony Liuzzo, a retailing expert and professor of business and economics at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "Consumers are demonstrating that they are willing to spend.''


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