Last fall, the Chicago Sky captured their first WNBA title in an 80-74 win over the Phoenix Mercury at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena. Fans were thrilled, saying the win was a win for both the team and women’s sport as a whole. But at the time, basketball-loving Chicagoans reported difficulty finding merchandise to celebrate the city’s hottest sports team.
Months later, Sky merchandise is a little easier to find, but access could still be improved, according to retailers and fans. That’s something that might be of interest to fans planning to head to Wintrust Arena this weekend for the WNBA All-Star Game, which will be played at noon on Sunday.
Four Sky players are expected to make All-Star Game appearances. Sky star Candace Parker was the first pick in the draft. She will be joined in the arena by her Chicago teammates Kahleah Copper, Emma Meesseman and Courtney Vandersloot, who are all reserves.
Outside of the arena, it may be a little easier for fans to access merchandise in physical stores than the day after the team wins the championship. But the time it takes for merchandise to arrive after retailers order means there’s usually more availability online – although shopping online means fans have to wait for shipping and delivery.
Jason Caref, co-owner of Clark Street Sports, which has multiple locations in the Chicago area, said he wanted to sell “as much Sky merchandise as we can get our hands on.” Caref said he ordered Candace Parker bobbleheads after the team won the WNBA championship last year. The bobbleheads arrived about a month ago, he said. These are the only Sky merchandise he 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 keychains, hugs and lanyards. The store ordered Sky products for adults before the start of the team’s season but they still hadn’t arrived, the manager said.
Caref said Clark Street Sports is ordering merchandise well in advance – it placed an order this week for more Sky merchandise which will arrive next spring. It also plans to order Sky items on “hunting,” that is, goods that are made domestically and can be shipped faster than typical store orders, which are produced overseas.
The fighter products, he said in a text message, are “for when Sky wins the championship again!”
Caref said global supply chain issues related to COVID-19 clouded retailers’ ability to place orders for hunting products last year.
“You think of a business like mine, our niche is that we’re carrying crews 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 right now are the Sky and the Bulls,” he said.
Brian Panganiban, creator of social media fan account The Sky Show Chi, said the availability of Sky merchandise has improved online, although 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 fans of men’s sports teams have access to.
“I think just Bulls merchandising you have so many options, so many different types of jerseys. Any fan of any kind – like an adult fan, women’s cut, youth, toddler, even pets and other things – they all have the opportunity to get the Bulls merchandise that ‘they’re looking for,’ he said.
Peyton Moriarity, spokesperson 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 offers Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot and Kahleah Copper t-shirts, as well as adult Parker jerseys and youth Parker and Vandersloot jerseys, she said. It does not contain Emma Meesseman products. All-Star Game-specific t-shirts are available on Dick’s website, Moriarity said.
Moriarity said that in Chicago, Dick’s locations in the South Loop and Lincoln Park will feature featured merchandise.
Fanatics, one of the largest sports retailers in the United States, did not list any Sky jerseys in its online store in October. Now, it’s selling customizable Chicago Sky and 2022 All-Star Game jerseys, which cost $129.99 and $139.99, respectively.
And as far as Sky’s 2022 All-Star representation goes, the company is also selling two women’s Candace Parker jerseys. He’s selling a Courtney Vandersloot 2021 All-Star jersey, an Emma Meesseman t-shirt from his time on the Washington Mystics, and no Kahleah Copper merchandise. Fans can also choose from a host of general Sky merchandise, such as slides and sweatshirts.
Caref said demand for Sky merchandise was highest right around the Sky Championship win, but he still heard from fans wanting to buy the team’s merchandise.
“That’s why I really want to wear it,” he said.