Chicago Sky fans are having trouble getting their hands on WNBA championship apparel, and retailers say supply chain disruptions, limited distributors and an overall lack of recognition for the women’s sport are to blame.
Across the city, fans have seen a scarcity of apparel celebrating the Chicago basketball team for their recent championship.
Brian Panganiban, who runs the social media fan page The Sky Show CHI, has even posted an online guide pointing fans toward their best bet at getting Sky merch in Chicago.
“Merchandise and shirts and all that type of stuff is such an important part of fandom,” said Panganiban, who started the social media hashtag #WNBAWeNeedMerch on Twitter to mobilize the team’s base to call for more apparel, especially after a championship win.
And online, the Sky’s online store is currently unable to ship out any merchandise. Because of a high volume of orders, fans can expect their merchandise to be shipped out as early as next week, the website said.
Meanwhile, sporting goods stores across the city say they are fielding multiple calls a day for merch but don’t have the supply in stock.
“There’s been a demand all year that they’ve been playing, it’s just companies getting back to us and then the shortage issues with everything going on in this world,” said Josh Ganal, 38, co-owner of Grandstand Sports in Bridgeport.
Ganal said pandemic-era disruptions have made it difficult for many sporting goods stores in the area to procure Sky merch. Ganal is still waiting to hear back from suppliers Nike and New Era to see if it’s still possible to put the Sky garb on his shelves.
But retailers also say sales reps from apparel distributors haven’t reached out enough.
“We really don’t get a lot of representatives calling us,” said Dan Hardman, the manager of Pro Jersey Sports in Bolingbrook. “I would honestly say the companies dropped the ball. I can turn around and get a White Sox Jersey in a heartbeat, but when it comes down to WNBA, there’s really only been maybe two companies that have even sent an email.”
There is at least one store where gear can be found. At Dick’s Sporting Goods store on North and Clybourn avenues, about 50 shirts are in stock, but there’s a strict one-per-person limit.
Smaller retailers like Ganal and Hardman are left to scrounge for Sky apparel amid the manufacturing delays. Hardman says that if he were to place an order for the merchandise, he wouldn’t receive the shipment until Christmas.
“It’s months and months of waiting upon waiting; it’s just not worth it at that point,” he said.
For fans like Panganiban, the merchandise is important in helping the team gain the recognition it deserves.
“A lot of people aren’t in the know yet,” he said. “Wearing hats, wearing shirts out in public, people are gonna remember, like ‘Oh yeah there’s a WNBA team here. Oh yeah, that team won the championship.”
Despite the hiccups in getting the Sky championship shirts on fans’ backs this year, Ganal says he is confident the Sky shirts will find a place on his shelf next year.
“That’s not even a gamble. Still every day we get calls for Sky stuff,” he said. “It’s something that here in our store we like to carry at least something from all the major teams. And let’s face it, the Sky is a major team.”