Source: USA TODAY
It’s epic gridiron action. Two well-known entities going head-to-head in a Feb. 2 football game that will bring power, notoriety and money.
But this isn’t about who will be the 2014 Super Bowl champ. This is about two neighboring states – New York and New Jersey – that each want its share of the hundreds of millions in economic spending that Super Bowl XLVIII is slated to bring in.
They’re on one team as official game co-hosts, but they’ll compete for hotel guests, partygoers, restaurant reservations and overall bragging rights.
New Jersey’s vocal governor, Chris Christie, has stressed that the game’s East
Rutherford, NJ stadium is on his state’s turf, saying in a NFL Media interview that as long as everyone understands the Super Bowl “is in New Jersey, not New York, then I’m fine.”
Yet, “stadium location and Chris Christie notwithstanding, this Super Bowl is all about New York,” says sports marketing expert Bob Dorfman. “That’s where the action is: the hotels, restaurants, nightlife, business headquarters, media outlets, pre-game party sites, you name it.”
“New York will shine brightly, with most all of the branding and spending happening there,” he says. “New Jersey will mainly be an afterthought.”
And as predicted by East Rutherford Mayor James Cassella,New York City has garnered most of the Super Sunday attention so far.
The Big Apple is hosting one of the biggest attractions around the game: Super Bowl Boulevard, which is a ten-block stretch down Broadway that will have concerts, athlete autograph signings and a seven-story-tall toboggan slide ride. And deep-pocketed companies such as DirecTV and Anheuser-Busch InBev have selected Manhattan as the location for their lavish, star-studded parties.
Bill La Rosa, director of the Hudson County division of cultural and tourism affairs in New Jersey, says his North Jersey region is “working hard” to grab a sliver of the spotlight — and spending — that often goes to New York City. But it’s a challenge.
MetLife Stadium “is in one (state) and you have a lot of parties and official activation in another,” he says.
He’s well aware that New Jersey is the butt of many jokes, but he says that even “the underdog of states in this country” deserves a chance to show the world that it can be a desirable tourist destination.
“New York doesn’t get hurt, and we all benefit if the visitor knows they have the opportunity to do things in New York and New Jersey,” he says.
If potential visitors knew all that New Jersey had to offer, they may extend vacation time in both New York and New Jersey, turning what could be a quick trip to New York City into a “long-haul” vacation.
“It’s a win-win for both states,” he says.
With the massive attention coming on Super Sunday, New Jersey will get a chance to showcase its state – but it has to figure out how to best communicate its message, says Paul Swangard, managing director of the James H. Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.
It “needs to be able to use this event to communicate to the millions and millions of people watching at home that New Jersey is a place to pay attention to,” he says.
But it may need a hail mary.
New York City is like the successful, attention-grabbing older sibling who has “a fabulous reputation” for hosting amazing parties, while New Jersey is the younger brother in the shadow, he says. “New York always stands to be seen as the big brother.”
Some things that put New Jersey at a home-field disadvantage:
Transportation troubles: There are still questions about the stadium parking restrictions and no clear answers on how mass transportation will work. “We’re still waiting to hear how people will have access the stadium parking lot,” says Himanshu Dadarwala, owner of a New Jersey Econo Lodge so close to MetLife stadium that “you can hear the crowd” on game days. Without that information, he’s not able to answer perspective guest’s questions about how they can get to the game from his hotel or plan out transportation for them. Official details on the transportation plans surrounding the game are slated to be announced on Monday.
Big-spending sponsors only want New York: Although there are many New Jersey bars and restaurants that are close to both the MetLife Stadium and Manhattan, most sponsors will only consider the bright lights of New York City for their affairs. “We here in New Jersey are having a tough time finding sponsors,” La Rosa says. “We are working hard and just hope they will look at New Jersey and realize that there is huge consumer buying power here.”
Media outlets will mainly be in Manhattan: Not only is New York City the headquarters for some of the biggest media companies in the country, journalists that aren’t based there will have a Manhattan venue — the Sheraton Hotel in midtown – as their official media center base camp.
New York has myriad must-see tourist sights. “If I’m a so-called everyday fan and I get this rare opportunity to go to the Super Bowl, I’m not going to miss the opportunity to see Times Square or other touristy sights,” says David Carter, executive director or the USC Marshall Sports Business Institute.
Robert Tuchman, president of sports and entertainment marketing company Goviva, is planning activities for 750 individuals coming to town for Super Bowl-related events, and says “not one person has requested to be in New Jersey.”
But all hope isn’t lost for New Jersey, says Steve Rosner, partner and co-founder of 16W Marketing, which is based in Rutherford, NJ. near the stadium.
Since the two teams that will play in the Big Game haven’t been decided yet, there is still time for New Jersey businesses to aggressively market to folks from those areas who attend the game.
“New Jersey hotels, restaurants and catering halls will be able to make up for some of the pre-spending that has already been done in New York,” he says.
Local business people “cannot be discouraged about what has transpired to date,” he says. “They’ve got to be proactive — rather than reactive — in securing business once the teams are solidified.”
Source: USA TODAY
Craving satisfaction that a turkey and stuffing meal simply can’t bring, shoppers descended upon mega discounters on Thursday and Friday in the hopes of satiating their desire for savings.
Walmart, Target, Sears and Kmart reported robust traffic as deal-hungry shoppers stormed their stores for reduced-price TVs, toys, video games, cameras and other items.
Sears, which opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, had lines of up to 1,000 people at some locations, says spokeswoman Jamie Stein.
At Target, crowds lined up hours before its 8 p.m. opening. Traffic remained steady for several hours after it first let customers through its doors, the retailer says.
Walmart had more than 22 million shoppers on Thanksgiving Day — and about 10 million register transactions from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. alone, says U.S. CEO Bill Simon.
“We’re a service industry like hotels or airlines, and our job is to try to anticipate what the customer wants to do,” Simon says. If the Thanksgiving Day traffic is any indication, “customers clearly want to shop on Thursday evening,” he says.
But it wasn’t a feeding frenzy at stores. Instead of filling their baskets with a multitude of items, many shoppers were just picking up “basic apparel and door-buster deals,” says Brian Sozzi, CEO of Belus Capital Advisors, a research firm focused on the retail sector.
Aggressive marketing lured shoppers through the doors, he says, but that traffic won’t necessarily add up to bigger sales than last year’s holiday season kickoff.
“If they don’t get other deals, they are going home,” Sozzi says. “They will return in the second and third week of December when the deals may be better.”
Ramesh Swamy, a retail partner at Deloitte, says some people he encountered waiting in lines didn’t have a game plan.”It was interesting to see that some customers were simply out to be part of the experience. It’s more of a tradition that’s forming than anything else,” he says.
Walmart, Target, Sears and Kmart wouldn’t provide specific sales data. The Black Friday buzz failed to lift retail shares. Walmart closed up 0.1% to $81.01. Target slipped 0.8% to $63.93. Sears Holdings ended down 0.2% at $63.53.
The National Retail Federation estimates that sales in November and December will increase 3.9% this year to $602 billion, only a slight bump up from last year’s actual 3.5% increase. Retailers typically have at least 20% of their sales during the holiday season, and Black Friday is named for the period when retailers move out of the red and into the black.
With the shortened holiday shopping season — there are six fewer days than last year — retailers rolled out a wide range of promotions to get consumers in their stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
Bryan Everett, senior vice president of Target stores, said that strong marketing efforts — such as store-specific maps listing the location of the door-buster sales — helped to bring in shoppers.
“We had a lot of guests who appreciated that,” he says. “It took a little of the confusion out of the equation.”
Elizabeth Bradley of Wilmington, Del., said Target made Thanksgiving Day shopping easy. “It was organized,” she says. “You got in and you got out quick. And they had plenty of stock.”
At Target, Walmart, Kmart and Sears stores, there was a strong turnout of families roaming store aisles together.
“What we’re seeing here is a new tradition of going out with our family and shopping on Thanksgiving and getting some great deals,” says Sears spokeswoman Stein.
Target’s Everett adds: “A couple people had custom T-shirts that said ‘Family Black Friday Shopping 2013.’”
Walmart and Target reported brisk online traffic as well. They “have made a dent in Amazon’s dominance for the first time,” says Sozzi. “They are doing price matching, which helps.”
Target reported two times more online orders than during last year’s early-morning Thanksgiving deals. Toys and electronics were the most popular items, with products such as the iPad Air, large-screen TVs, Nintendo 3DS XL and Zoomer the Robot Dog selling well.
Walmart.com said it processed nearly 400 million page views on Thanksgiving Day. That figure includes customers who used mobile devices and tablets.
Sales on Thursday ranked second only to Cyber Monday 2012, which was Walmart.com’s highest sales day ever. From a traffic standpoint, Thanksgiving Day was the highest traffic day in Walmart.com’s history, says the company.
“There was incredible traffic to Walmart.com,” Simon says.
Hand-held video games and SLR digital cameras were among its most popular online sellers.
Walmart.com had some technical issues, but it is back up and running, says Simon. “We apologize to anyone who was frustrated,” he says. “They can go back in now, and they won’t have any problems.”
Walmart not only attracted shopper attention. It has also drawn the ire of workers and others who say the mega-retailer doesn’t pay fair wages or treat its employees well. The employee rights group OUR Walmart planned rallies Friday in Chicago, Miami, Washington, D.C., Ontario, Calif., and other areas, saying that Walmart workers deserved higher pay and better working conditions.
Walmart aggressively defended its business in interviews and press releases touting its wages and benefits.
“Black Friday is a big stage, and we’re one of the biggest players in the retail industry,” spokesman David Tovar said. “We’re not surprised that those trying to change our industry are using this platform to get their message out, and we respect their right to be heard. We expect some demonstrations at our stores today, although far fewer than what our critics are claiming and with hardly any actual Walmart associates participating.”
Contributing: Alistair Barr, Adam Shell, Annika McGinnis and Hadley Malcolm of USA TODAY; Bill McMichael of The (Wilmington) News Journal
Source: USA TODAY
MOONACHIE, N.J. — There are long wooden tables. Workers sanding and sweeping. A garland-clad locomotive, a wonderfully unusual rocking horse, a row of gingerbread men and a hearty Christmas tree wrapped with lights.
Visitors might think they’re at a certain North Pole workshop.
But this is North Jersey.
With its sprawling highways, noisy truck traffic and used car dealerships, the area here is more Tony Soprano than Santa Claus. Once inside this cavernous workshop, though, the gritty environment disappears.
A large green dragon with outspread wings dangles over welders, woodworkers and 27-foot orca whales. Nearby, a catapult shoots off rainbow-hued confetti.
This is Macy’s Parade Studio, the place where the magic of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade begins. On Thursday, about 50 million Americans are likely to tune in to at least part of the parade, which is not only a family tradition for many, but also the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season.
A man in a bright turquoise shirt and red suspenders creates rope netting for the new Cirque du Soleil float. Another man perched high on a ladder patches up imperfections in the wood-carved waves for the SeaWorld float.
Asked what kind of machine can turn planks of wood into such a smooth, rounded wave shape, Studio Vice President John Piper smiles and says he’ll show studio visitors such a “machine” — and points to the worker on the ladder.
These men are among the 28 full-time studio employees who create and care for the dozens of balloons and floats that will bask in the spotlight Thursday.
These painters, carpenters, sculptors, welders and engineers bring fantastical ideas — such as a supersize Spider-Man balloon or an intricately carved Mount Rushmore-themed float — into a towering reality.
Related slideshow: Best floats in the parade
They do large-scale construction and fine-detail artistry. They camouflage the floats’ massive hinges with meticulous painting and brainstorm how to get three-story structures through the Lincoln Tunnel and up to the parade’s staging area on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
They help organize the parade components for the trip to Manhattan, get them set up for showtime and then haul everything back out again.
Beginning Wednesday afternoon and working throughout the night, these staffers — along with other Macy’s employees, temporary studio workers and volunteers — will assemble 30 large floats and inflate 16 giant balloons. They’ll get dozens of other parade elements, such as that confetti-shooting catapult, ready to go for the 9 a.m. parade start time.
Then, after it all winds its way through the 2.5-mile parade route from 77th Street along Central Park West and down 6th Avenue to Macy’s Herald Square at 34th Street and 7th Avenue, they deflate, disassemble, repack and bring everything back to New Jersey.
The studio workers return to their families just about the time most Americans are digesting their second helping of pumpkin pie.
“We go home and collapse,” says design studio director Jerry Ospa.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG, IT’S BIG
As the clock ticks down, the pressure ratchets up. The parade is a high-profile event for Macy’s and the organizations that sponsor balloons and floats.
Any big hitches can have devastating consequences. In 1997, winds drove a Cat in the Hat balloon into a metal pole. The ensuing damage left a woman in a coma for almost a month before she recovered. In 2005, an M&M balloon knocked over a streetlight, injuring two sisters.
A messy winter storm moving into the East Coast appeared to be a threat to ground the balloons this year. The balloons may not lift off Thursday if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph, according to city rules enacted after 1997′s accident. Current forecasts call for sustained winds of 20 mph and gusts of 36 mph.
“At this time, it is too early to make any determinations on the flight of the giant balloons,” said Macy’s spokesman Orlando Veras. “On Thanksgiving morning, Macy’s works closely with the NYPD, who, based on real time weather data and the official regulations, determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights.”
Balloons have only been grounded once in the parade’s 87-year history, when bad weather kept them from flying in 1971. They’re set to be inflated in Manhattan on Wednesday evening.
Also, there is political contention swirling around two floats.
Animal rights activists are upset that a SeaWorld float, which features two large orcas, is in the parade. They claim SeaWorld doesn’t treat its whales well.
And ranchers were riled up that singer Joan Jett was slated to perform on the South Dakota tourism float, saying the vegetarian and animal-rights activist wasn’t a good representative for their beef-producing state. Although she’s off the float, she’ll still be in the parade.
Parade studio workers are more involved with putty and polyurethane than such political flaps, but they do have to worry about other big, brewing issues — such as wind, rain or other harsh weather.
“We prepare for the worst and we hope for the best,” Ospa says.
They must deal with whatever comes on Thursday, says studio Vice President Piper.
“This is the day,” he says. “It can’t be moved inside and there is no change of date.”
PARADE’S STORIED HISTORY
The festivities have greatly evolved from the first Macy’s Christmas Parade on Thanksgiving Day in 1924.
That procession featured four bands, floats with themes such as the Old Lady in the Shoe and Little Miss Muffet, and Central Park Zoo animals, according to Robert Grippo, author of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“It was a big hullabaloo,” he says.
This year, there will be 16 huge balloons, 36 smaller balloons, 30 full-size floats, 11 marching bands, 900 clowns and 1,600 cheerleaders and dancers,
More than 50 million people saw at least part of the parade on TV last year and about 3.5 million watched it live.
For those who get to see it in person, it’s an amazing experience, says Grippo.
“Everyone gets into the spirit of this thing,” he says. “There’s a joy. For three hours, you forget about the problems of the world, the hectic pace and the tension.”
From 1927 to 1983, the crowd-wowing balloons such as Underdog and Popeye were made by Goodyear Tire & Rubber. Since then, parade balloons have been produced by Macy’s and by Sioux Falls, S.D., manufacturer Raven Aerostar, which makes most of the larger balloons.
The models for each giant balloon begin as a lump of reddish-brown clay that is sculpted into an exact scale model of the full-size balloon.
That design is used to create casts that produce miniature replicas of each new balloon. One replica is typically marked up with technical information, such as marks representing where the inflation ports and balloon lines will go. Another replica is painted in the exact colors that will be on the parade balloon.
Next, actual-size pieces are cut from polyurethane-coated fabric and heat-sealed to form the balloon’s shape.
Learning how the balloons were created “was magnificent,” says Jimmy Artle, who began his studio tenure in the early 1980s and was trained by Goodyear engineers. “They taught us every little nuance about the balloons.”
He fell in love with the craft. Decades later, his craft helped him fall in love.
Fourteen years ago, he had to repair the foot of the Big Bird balloon and needed help. He asked an inflation crew volunteer named Sandy to help because she was small enough to fit into the balloon chamber with him.
“We spent about two hours in the balloon and I don’t know why, but I turned and kissed her,” he says. “She kissed back and we’ve been together ever since.”
ROOM FOR CREATIVITY
Like many studio workers, Artle began in the previous workspace, a former Tootsie Roll factory in Hoboken, N.J., that housed the team from 1968 to 2010. It moved to the 72,000-square-foot Moonachie building in 2011.
The new facility is a space big enough to construct towering floats, fully inflate massive balloons and organize thousands of costumes.
Pieces of past year’s parade props, such as big M&M candy characters and a gigantic keyboard, are part of the new studio’s decor. There are also the 2- to 3-foot models of past balloons — Snoopy, SpongeBob SquarePants, Kung Fu Panda and Garfield among them — which dangle from overhead wires, and dozens of float models lined up on shelves.
Workers here use the same line when asked about the techniques used to blow up the balloons. “We never ‘blow up’ balloons, we ‘inflate’ them,” they say with a smile.
They’re also quick to share details about their work techniques and to relate some history.
Most of the floats and balloons begin with a simple line drawing that is transformed into technical renderings and then a series of models.
Couching by the metallic fringe on a partly completed float, Piper offers up some background on that particular decoration.
“Going back to medieval times, they would cover the wheels of pageant wagons so you couldn’t see them,” Piper says. “That’s where they got their name. They’re floats because they come floating into view.”
IDEAS PLUCKED FROM THIN AIR
In the stressful weeks leading up to the parade, several workers here make a proclamation you don’t hear much these days: “I love my job.”
“It’s the best place to work as a craftsman,” says painter and head scenic artist Beth Lucas, who joined the studio in 1984.
These people spend all year working on the Thanksgiving Day parade, but they also must squeeze in other duties, such as making props for the Macy’s Flower Show, the Fourth of July fireworks and in-store Christmas events.
Working closely together has helped form a tight bond, making them much more than co-workers, Lucas says.
“I call them my brothers,” she says, gesturing to the men around her.
On Friday, studio workers will gather in the third-floor costume department to share a catered Thanksgiving meal. Everyone will “talk about what transpired, the positives and negatives, and say, ‘Couldn’t we do this next year?’” says parade executive producer Amy Kule. “The ideas start percolating.”
With each year, the crew’s skills improve, says balloon technician Artle.
The workers here care about their craft and the other craftspeople. “When a new person comes in, the old hands, so to speak, take them under their wing,” he says.
And soon, everyone feels like family.
Artle has Lou Gehrig’s disease. When it progressed to the point that he had to use a wheelchair, studio workers went to his home and built a ramp.
“When one of us gets cut,” he says, “we all bleed.”
On Thursday, he and Sandy will take on new roles: parade spectators rather than workers.
“It’s been one hell of a run,” Artle says, while the SpongeBob and Toothless the dragon fly above.
“Of everything I’ve done in my life, I don’t think I’ve done anything that I’ve loved more than working on the parade.”
Contributing: The Associated Press