Last fall, Chicago heaven won his first WNBA title in an 80-74 victory over the Phoenix Mercury at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena. The fans were ecstatic declaring victory a victory for both the team and the women’s sport as a whole. But at that moment, Basketball-loving Chicagoans reported difficulty finding merchandise to celebrate the city’s most popular sports team.
Months later, Sky’s merchandise is a bit easier to find, but access could still be improved, retailers and fans say. That’s something that may be important to fans planning to make it to Wintrust Arena this weekend for the WNBA All-Star Game, which will be played Sunday at noon.
Four Sky players are set to make All-Star Game appearances. Sky star Candace Parker was the first pick in the draft. Her Chicago teammates will join her in the arena. Kahleah Copper, Emma Meesseman and Courtney Vandersloot, all of which are reserves.
Outside of the arena, it may be a little easier for fans to access merchandise in physical stores than immediately after a team’s championship win. But the delay in the time it takes for merchandise to arrive after retailers place the order means there’s usually more availability online, although shopping online requires fans to wait for shipping and delivery.
Jason Caref, co-owner of Clark Street Sports, which has several Chicago-area locations, said he wants to sell “all the Sky merchandise we can get.” Caref said that he ordered Candace Parker bobbed after the team won the WNBA championship last year. The bobbleheads arrived about a month ago, she said. They are the only merchandise Sky has in stock at the moment, and they are selling out.
A man who identified himself as one of the managers of Chicago Sports & Novelty on Michigan Avenue said the store sells Sky T-shirts for children, as well as key chains, hoops and lanyards. The store ordered adult Sky merchandise before the team’s season started, but it hadn’t arrived yet, the manager said.
Caref said Clark Street Sports orders merchandise well in advance, placing an order this week for more Sky merchandise due to arrive next spring. He also plans to order items from Sky in “pursuit,” meaning merchandise that is made domestically and can be shipped faster than the store’s typical orders, which are produced internationally.
The chase products, he said in a text message, are “for when Sky wins the championship again!”
Caref said that in the past year, global supply chain issues related to COVID-19 reduced the ability of retailers to place orders for chase products.
“You think in a business like mine, our niche is bringing teams from Chicago,” Caref said. He pointed to the records of other sports teams in the city, including the Cubs, White Sox, Bears and Blackhawks.
“The only good teams at the moment are the Sky and the Bulls,” he said.
Brian Panganiban, creator of the social media fan account The Sky Show Chi, said availability of Sky products has improved online, though it can still be difficult to find products in person.
And Panganiban said that despite the increased availability, he believes there is still a gap between the amount of merchandise available to Sky fans and the amount that fans of men’s sports teams have access to.
“I think just Bulls marketing has so many options, so many different types of jerseys out there. Any fan of any kind, such as an adult fan, a fit woman, a young man, a small child, even pets and whatnot, everyone has the opportunity to get whatever Bulls merchandise they are looking for,” he said.
Peyton Moriarity, a spokeswoman for Dick’s Sporting Goods, which is the WNBA’s official sporting goods retail partner, said the company has 16 stores in the Chicago market that carry Sky merchandise. The company sells Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot and Kahleah Copper T-shirts, as well as Parker T-shirts for adults and Parker and Vandersloot T-shirts for youth, she said. Does not carry Emma Meesseman products. Specific All-Star Game jerseys are available on Dick’s website, Moriarity said.
Moriarity said that in Chicago, Dick’s South Loop and Lincoln Park locations will carry star products.
Fanatics, one of the largest sports retailers in the US, did not list any Sky jerseys in its online store in October. Now, it sells customizable Chicago Sky and 2022 All-Star Game jerseys, which retail for $129.99 and $139.99, respectively.
And when it comes to representing Sky’s 2022 All-Stars, the company also sells two women’s Candace Parker T-shirts. Selling a Courtney Vandersloot 2021 All-Star jersey, an Emma Meesseman jersey from her time with the Washington Mystics, and no Kahleah Copper merchandise. Fans can also choose from a variety of general Sky merchandise, such as slides and hoodies.
Caref said demand for Sky merchandise was highest right around the Sky championship win, but he was still listening to fans who wanted to buy team merchandise.
“That’s why I really want to wear it,” he said.