Super Bowl a boon for local businesses

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Friday, February 4, 2011
— Is there such a thing as Christmas in January and February?

For many area businesses, the answer is yes, and they can sum up a spike in sales in three words: Green Bay Packers.

The Packers' amazing run into and through the NFL playoffs has kept cash registers singing through weeks where they typically go silent after the holiday rush.

"There's been a lot of excitement, and this will be a big uptick for retailers—kind of like a Christmas bonus," said Ken Riley, general manager of Daniels Sentry on Janesville's east and west sides.

The sales spike will come to a crashing halt at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, when the Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers square off in Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas.

That is, of course, unless the Packers win and local retailers quickly turn out a new line of "Titletown" merchandise.

Similar merchandise appeared almost immediately after the Packers put the Chicago Bears out of their misery Jan. 23, winning the NFC Championship and the big trip to Texas. Shirts, sweatshirts, hats and jerseys have been flying off shelves around the state ever since.

But several other businesses also have ridden the green and gold wave.

Wings have been the ticket at Ponderosa in Janesville, and that's got nothing to do with offensive formations.

The Milton Avenue restaurant doesn't have televisions, which during the Packer playoff run has translated into an empty dining room during games.

For the Packers playoff game against Atlanta on a recent Saturday night, Ponderosa served fewer than 10 customers after the game started, said Jay Buchert, the restaurant's general manager.

After the 2 p.m. kickoff of the NFC title game, the restaurant only had 40 people come through the doors.

But Ponderosa's chicken wings have carried the restaurant's offense.

For a regular season Packer game, the restaurant packages 400 to 600 wings. For the NFC Championship, it did 2,000.

Buchert and his crew are planning to sell about 3,500 wings this Sunday, which requires a logistics grid all its own.

"Without the wings to go, it wouldn't be worthwhile for us to stay open," Buchert said.

The same can be said for other restaurants that don't have TVs.

Riley's Sentry stores will remain open during the game, which he said is the perfect time for people who don't care about football to do their shopping.

"A couple of my managers asked if we would close for the Super Bowl," Riley said. "I said 'Absolutely not … just schedule the Bears fans to work.'"

Sentry and other grocery stores have benefited from pre-game surges as fans stock up for parties. Walk through any grocery store and you can't miss the football-oriented displays.

"Super Bowl week is generally a good week, with people gearing up," Riley said. "But this year with the Packers, there's a lot more excitement."

Dennis Garrett, an associate professor of marketing at Marquette University, said Super Bowl winners are those companies savvy enough to market themselves to the event. The losers, he said, tend to be alternative entertainment options that traditionally draw well on Sundays.

"People in Wisconsin are very excited," he said. "If you follow football, you know how difficult it is for your team to reach the Super Bowl."

It's been well documented that fans have blown out their checkbooks to travel to Texas for the game, he said. Most, however, are spending their money on food and drink for parties, apparel and even furniture.

"This is right up the alley for those in the hospitality industry who cater to people who might not have the accommodations to host a party," Garrett said. "And the grocers love this, because in Wisconsin, we love to eat."

Garrett said some fans often make the wrong assumption that sports bars and restaurants will be too crowded to watch the game.

"The same holds true for pizza deliveries, so people don't even call," he said. "But these places are really geared up."

In fact, Super Bowl Sunday is one of the five big pizza days of the year, according to trade magazine Pizza Today.

The other four? Halloween, the day before Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, the magazine's editor told The Associated Press.

Papa John's, for example, expects to sell a million pizzas on Sunday, which would make it that company's biggest sales day of the year.

Buffalo Wild Wings on Milton Avenue in Janesville also is expecting a big day, said manager Dave Babcock.

The restaurant has been packed for all Green Bay games, and the addition of the Bears a couple of weeks ago translated into big sales, he said.

For Sunday, the restaurant is taking VIP reservations for a portion of its seats and planning giveaways throughout the game.

"Like the other games, there will be a lot of hooting and hollering," Babcock said. "People really get decked out and get into it.

"With the Bears and the Packers both doing so well, it's the best thing that could have happened to us."

Last updated: 4:35 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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