published Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Super Bowl fans spend big for food, garb and TVs

Patrons at the Sports Spot at Hamilton Place mall walk past Super Bowl XLVI shirts Friday afternoon. The Sports Stop at Hamilton Place mall moved its Patriots, Giants and Super Bowl merchandise to the front of the shop. Total spending for the weekend is expected to reach $11 billion.
Patrons at the Sports Spot at Hamilton Place mall walk past Super Bowl XLVI shirts Friday afternoon. The Sports Stop at Hamilton Place mall moved its Patriots, Giants and Super Bowl merchandise to the front of the shop. Total spending for the weekend is expected to reach $11 billion.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
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Doug Grindstaff plans to buy two shirts and chip in for a pre-Super Bowl party before heading to a restaurant for food, drinks and Sunday's big game.

And he doesn't even really like sports.

Grindstaff is one of 173 million people expected to watch Sunday's matchup, the largest number since the National Retail Federation began collecting data eight years ago. The average viewer is projected to spend nearly $64, about as much as Grindstaff, on Super Bowl-related purchases. Collectively, such purchases are injecting $11 billion into food, clothing and furniture stores across the nation.

"It's a reason to throw a party," the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga freshman said as he browsed NFL T-shirts at Sports Stop on Friday. "It should be a good time."

It's certainly a good time for retailers. Don Gilman, manager of the Hamilton Place mall store where Grindstaff was shopping, has sold out of New York Giants jerseys and only had a few New England Patriots ones left Friday.

"Hopefully, Sunday we'll be out of the stuff," he said. "This week has been pretty good."

There are enough sports fans wanting to show team support to make this Super Bowl a good one. But Gilman said nothing tops the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers matchup in 2005. Packers gear is consistently a top seller, he said, but he's been doing well with the two teams in the championship this year.

"It could have been worse," he said. "We could have been sitting here watching the Ravens."

More than half of Super Bowl viewers plan to watch with friends. Many of those viewers will be lucky enough to catch the game on a brand new TV. More than 5 million viewers said they planned to grab one before kickoff.

"It's a big time for retailers, and a lot of consumers realize that a lot of companies will be offering TVs at low prices," said Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. "With millions of eyes glued to the TV, retailers years ago recognized this may be a way to attract people."

Football seems to make those millions of people get hungry. Grannis' organization projects nearly $9 billion will be spent on food and beverages surrounding the Super Bowl.

Chris Rivero, manager of Market Street's Buffalo Wild Wings, was getting hints early in the week about just how busy his restaurant will be come Sunday. He's already had a few orders put in for as many as 1,000 wings, and he knows he'll get more as kickoff approaches.

"It's a big deal for us," he said. "On the take-out side, it will probably be our most profitable day."

The restaurant doesn't see as much dine-in business, which holds Super Sunday back from becoming the business's best day of the year. But one way or another, Rivero expects to be slammed.

Greg Beairsto, co-owner of Crust Pizza, said he faces huge numbers of take-out orders. He estimates take-out and delivery Sunday will be at least 50 percent higher than normal.

"We get hammered with take-outs," he said. "It's pretty phenomenal."

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