Super Bowl loss: How the Seattle Seahawks cost one small business $7 million


Think Mr. Manning suffered a monumental loss on Sunday? Meet Mr. McIngvale. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Sure, Peyton Manning had a rough night at the Super Bowl. So did his coach, his teammates, and presumably thousands of fans back in Denver who watched their team get walloped by the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

But the biggest loser from the big game? That title likely belongs to Jim McIngvale.

McIngvale owns Gallery Furniture store in Houston, Texas, and over the past couple weeks, his small business ran a promotion promising customers a full refund on any purchase of more than $6,000 if Seattle (selected as the team of choice by a coin toss) won the Super Bowl. Hundreds of patrons flocked to the store, hedging their bets on the Seahawks.

When the clock struck 0:00 at Metlife Stadium and the blue and green confetti started pouring down, every one of them had won their money back. One will reportedly get a whopping $30,000 refund for his purchase.

McIngvale, on the other hand, had lost, and lost big — to the tune of $7 million.

Politics and sports rarely come as close as when politicians advertise during the Super Bowl. Take a look back at five memorable political Super Bowl ads. (Jeff Simon/The Washington Post)

“Happy Gallery Furniture customers celebrated the outcome of the big football game Sunday night as they won $7,000,000 in furniture free,” Gallery Furniture posted on its Web site on Monday.

McIngvale isn’t the first small business owner to sustain a big loss on a promotion tied to the Super Bowl. Last year, Gardiners Furniture of Baltimore offered refunds for every purchase in the days leading up to the big game if the Baltimore Ravens returned the opening kickoff of either half for a touchdown.

When Jacoby Jones opened the second half with a 108-yard sprint to the endzone, the company found itself holding the bag for $600,000. In that case, though, Gardiners Furniture had purchased insurance to cover a large portion of the losses.

McIngvale did not, according to the online post Monday, which stated that the company does not take out insurance plans for its promotions.

Gallery Furniture has forfeited a big chunk of revenue due to bad luck on the gridiron before — but not this much. Known for his gutsy promotions, McIngvale earlier this month handed out $685,000 worth of free furniture to customers who correctly predicted the winners of the NFC and AFC championship games.

Clearly, that didn’t deter him from an even higher stakes bet on the Super Bowl, but then again, that first blow was less than one tenth the financial loss his company will suffer as a result of the Seahawks’ victory on Sunday. Surely, this will be the last time his company runs a promotion like this, right?

Wrong.

From the matchup to the temperature to the length of the National Anthem, here are the numbers you need to know about the Super Bowl. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

“We’re trying to create customers for life and make the store relevant and fun, and it was a great promotion for everybody and the customers won and that’s what it’s all about,” he told Houston CBS affiliate KHOU.

In fact, McIngvale told ESPN he was “thrilled” with the way it all turned out.

“Doing a promotion like this creates affinity, creates trust with the customer, makes you relevant,” he said.

Follow J.D. Harrison and On Small Business on Twitter.

J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he runs the On Small Business blog.
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