The Super Bowl was a humdinger of a game, a television ratings smash—and a dud for the Phoenix economy, which played host to the big event. New credit card transaction numbers from First Data, a payment processing company, make the Super Bowl look like less of an economic engine than an average January in Phoenix.
The big spenders arriving on private jets and thousands of ordinary spectators did drive an uptick in local consumer spending during the two-week period before the Super Bowl. The pre-game span saw a 3.1 percent increase in credit card spending compared to First Data’s transaction numbers from same two weeks last year. But that increase is actually slower than the Super Bowl-free interval in 2014, when sales grew by 6.4 percent from the preceding year.
The data includes credit and debit card transactions at more than 20,000 merchants in the greater Phoenix area that used First Data to process more $3.5 billion in sales in the two weeks before this year’s game. Gas purchases are excluded to filter out the impact of dramatic price decreases at the pump. Here is how the Phoenix numbers compare to the last two Super Bowls in East Rutherford, N.J. (2014) and New Orleans (2013):
The First Data numbers show Super Bowl spending concentrated in predictable places: bars, restaurants, rental cars, and other tourist attractions. Bars, in particular, did well, with 15.8 percent growth around the game compared to 6.1 percent last year. These gains, however, were mostly counteracted by sluggish growth in categories such as building supplies, home furnishings, and groceries—the things normal Phoenix residents buy. Here are some of the most and least improved sectors:
It appears that while tourists were opening their wallets, locals were not. So while hotels saw their average ticket go from $255 to $350, according to First Data, the furniture shops of metro Phoenix were down nearly three percent from last year. The big game money seems to have displaced normal commerce.
Of course, it’s possible that local shoppers will come roaring back to make purchases delayed to avoid Super Bowl traffic and crowds. But this hasn’t been the pattern in the past, according to Victor Matheson, an economist at the College of the Holy Cross who has studied the impact of sporting events. “You think, OK, we displaced everyone at Home Depot, but then they just go back the next weekend,” says Matheson. “When we go back and look, we don’t see that in the data.”
Locals, it seems, either clear out of town or join the tourists in dining out, skipping a trip to the grocer. Leisure spending was among the poor performers. This, says Matheson, is likely a case of “crowding out”: Super Bowl visitors took the place of those who would otherwise be in town to go to a spa, and people watching the game didn’t go to the movies.
On the plus side, Phoenix consumer spending did tick up slightly in January compared to December, when growth was only 2 percent. Here is the spending trend indexed to the start of last year:
Credit card data, of course, is not the whole picture. The Super Bowl generates boom times for local advertising and contract work. The consumer data, however, confirms Matheson’s skepticism over the numbers tossed around by boosters. Before the game last week, the Arizona host committee promised a $500 million boost for the state. The financial consultants at PwC projected it would generate $205 million in direct spending.
“The impact is big in some areas,” says Matheson, “but it’s a fraction of what they are claiming.”
This article was written by Ira Boudway from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.