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Bears Business Is Booming

Super Bowl run can score some added sales, but impact on Chicago economy is minimal

By Mike Comerford
Daily Herald Business Writer
Posted Friday, January 19, 2007

Pre-ordered Chicago Bears NFC Championship jerseys are ready for sale Monday at Deerfield-based Walgreens stores but will go unsold if the Bears lose.

Abt Electronics is braced for high definition television sales on Sunday at its Glenview store but sales aren’t as good on non-game days.

A new Bears sponsor this year, 7-Eleven, will be handing out 15,000 free coffee coupons at Soldier Field.

“We’ve seen the redemption rate double to triple normal coupon purchase rates,” said Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for 7-Eleven, which bought Oak Brook-based White Hen last year.

There’s little doubt that the success of the Chicago Bears in the playoffs creates Chicago area winners and losers.

The winners tend to be bars, restaurants, some retailers and the Chicago Bears organization.

As proof of the power of a single game, after last week’s game-winning kick by Bears kicker Robbie Gould, his jersey is the hottest selling product at the team’s store.chicagobears.com.

“I don’t think there are many teams that have (kickers) as top jersey sellers,” said Jason Smothers, e-commerce manager for store.chicagobears.com.

Nearly 900 items a day are being ordered by fans, Smothers said — nearly equaling peak-Christmas season buying levels.

And it’s not just televisions that are selling during this season, said Abt general manager Marc Cook.

“We sell a lot of recliners, message chairs and mini-fridges,” he said, adding that digital video recorders are popular, too.

The losers are often other gathering places such as malls and movie theaters, said Allen Sanderson, a sports economist at the University of Chicago.

“If you buy a shirt, ask yourself where is that shirt made,” Sanderson said. “If it was made in China or Des Moines, the local impact is diluted.”

Sanderson said even the beer at local sports bars often comes from outside the area, funneling revenue and profits outside the Chicago economy.

As for big-screen television sales, Sanderson said the bargain prices are likely to be the biggest motivator. Sales may rise during Super Bowl week, he said, but so do flower sales on Valentine’s Day.

The Chicago economy is too big for a potential Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears to make any measurable economic difference, said Marcus DiNitto, managing editor of Sports Business Daily, a sports trade publication.

“In a city like Chicago, this will be all money that goes from one pocket to another,” he said. “This is disposable income that would have been spent over the next few months anyway.”

Sanderson also said the hype won’t turn into new dollars in the local economy.

“I think people overestimate the impact of a successful team on Chicago,” Sanderson said.

© 2007 Daily Herald, Paddock Publications, Inc.