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Stores hoping for a touchdown

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Posted: Friday, October 19, 2007 2:30 pm

Super Bowl Sunday is more than three months away, but local retailers are already preparing their stores for what they hope will be a super payday.

According to the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3 in Glendale will generate $400 million for the state’s economy.

Super Bowl XXX in 1996 in Tempe pumped $306 million into Arizona, according to an Arizona State University College of Business study.

“Generally, merchandise with the Super Bowl logo generates more than $100 million,” said Brian McCarthy of the NFL’s public relations department.

That total represents all merchandise sold by the NFL worldwide, but retailers are hoping that a big chunk of that will come locally.

Chandler-based Just Sports decided to get a jump-start on the football frenzy that will hit the Valley in late January. The retailer opened a football-only store, called the Super Station Bowl headquarters, in August at Chandler Fashion Center. The shop is in addition to the company’s store at the mall.

“We looked at the business to be had with the Super Bowl, not only with visitors, but with residents who are proud to have the Super Bowl here again and want something to commemorate it, and decided to open these locations,” said Kelly Roberts, president of Sports Venture, parent of Just Sports.

In addition to the Chandler location, Just Sports has a football merchandise kiosk at Scottsdale Fashion Square, and it plans to open three more Super Bowl-only stores in the East Valley in the next two months. Locations will open Nov. 1 at Arizona Mills mall in Tempe, and on Nov. 15 at Superstition Springs Center and Fiesta Mall in Mesa.

The Super Station locations at Fiesta Mall and Chandler Fashion Center are bigger than their Just Sports counterparts.

The early start by Just Sports doesn’t surprise the NFL.

“Typically local Super Bowl vendors activate around Thanksgiving, but we have seen Super Bowl merchandise being sold in the host city earlier and earlier each year,” said Joanna Hunter, an NFL spokeswoman.

“The host committee has been great in preparing for the Super Bowl, and it doesn’t surprise me that the rest of the state is starting to embrace it so early.”

While Just Sports is among the first to open football-only stores in anticipation of the Super Bowl, other retailers are also planning to turn locations into merchandise heaven for fans. Sportsfan will transform its store on Mill Avenue in Tempe into a football-only store once the NFL playoffs get started.

“When the playoffs are set, we’ll start concentrating on offering playoff team merchandise until it’ll just be the final two teams and Super Bowl logo merchandise in the store,” said Karl Huizenga, Sportsfan Phoenix district manager.

Some merchants are being more cautious in their preparations. Cactus Sports on Mill Avenue, in business since 1992, saw great success when the Super Bowl visited Tempe in 1996, but owner Troy Scoma said he isn’t planning on converting his store this time around.

“In 1996, we set up a tent on University (Drive) and Mill and our regular location was at least one-fourth Super Bowl merchandise,” said Scoma, whose store normally peddles Arizona State University merchandise.

“This time I’m planning on having maybe only four racks of merchandise after what we went through with the BCS Championship game this year,” he said.

Even with the BCS Championship game in Glendale this year, Scoma felt that the fans, especially Ohio State fans, would still come down to Mill and spend their money. However, instead of the extra business the bowl game usually brings, he ended up with boxes of unsold merchandise.

“I ended up donating 35 to 40 boxes of merchandise to Goodwill,” Scoma said. “In order to protect my business, I won’t be counting on the Super Bowl for any extra business.”

According to the NFL, 73 companies were granted licenses to produce products for the Super Bowl.

The items range from the usual T-shirts to edible cake decorations and leather home-theater recliners. Sportsfan has been buying Super Bowl XLII products since last spring and started selling Super Bowl logo merchandise Sept. 1.

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