As long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans celebrated their team’s World Series victory, promotional product companies in the Chicago area scrambled to churn out T-shirts and more to meet the staggering demand for championship gear.
“There were 300 people waiting in line outside Dick’s,” Steven Kanney, president and owner of Target Decorated Apparel (asi/90549) based in Naperville, IL, tells Counselor. “We’re going bananas to feed the demand.”
Bob Bowman, president of business and media for Major League Baseball, told ESPN that the league sold more Cubs merchandise in the first 16 hours following the team’s World Series victory than the total sales of any previous month. Sources told ESPN that Cubs merchandise was expected to generate $70 million in retail sales in the first 24 hours after Game 7.
About 40 of Kanney’s employees watched Game 7 in the break room with the printing presses steamed up and ready to go. As soon as the third out was called in the bottom of the 10th inning, Kanney says everybody cheered and then it was all hands on deck to crank out gear. “We’ve got everybody here working, even friends and family helping put stickers on and counting boxes,” Kanney says.
Target Decorated Apparel created shirts emblazoned with “Chicago Cubs 2016 World Champions” as well as shirts and rally towels specifically designed for the parade. Kanney says the orders for Cubs shirts after the team won the National League Championship Series and clinched a berth in the World Series were the highest his company ever had, so he expects the championship T-shirt orders to top it. “From a business perspective, it’s nice that the staff is willing to work extra hours,” Kanney says. “But there’s also so much pride. We feel really good about doing this for the people of the city.”
Yousuf Razzak, owner of Chicago Printing and Embroidery Inc. (asi/161697), didn’t even get to watch Game 7. He was packing boxes and getting trucks out the door, praying that the Cubs won. “It’s been an amazing panic,” Razzak says. “The energy going around the city is something else.”
After Game 6 ended on Tuesday, the company started its eight printing presses and let them run until 2 a.m. on Thursday. Razzak went home to catch some sleep and came back at 7 a.m. “We’re the hot market guys. Everybody knows they can depend on us to get it done,” Razzak says.
The Cubs won the World Series for the first time since 1908, a victory so long awaited that it sent their fan base – whose legendary motto is “Wait Till Next Year” – into a frenzy. That passion has spilled over into their spending on Cubs merchandise. "I was in here when they won the NLCS, and the hoodies were like 80 bucks," Cubs fan and teacher Chris Zuniga told Crain’s Chicago Business while in a Dick’s Sporting Goods after the Cubs victory. "Nobody cares. We're in here and we're going to buy this stuff. It's never happened before. I'll spend anything. You never know when it's going to happen again."
Cubs merchandise leading up to and after the World Series also flew off the shelves – jerseys, hats, and even “W” flags (which the Cubs fly after every victory) that fans put on their cars and over the graves of family members. Magic MacKeigan, owner of Magic Sports in Valparaiso and LaPorte, IN, told the Times of Northwest Indiana that jerseys sold big as places like restaurants allowed employees to wear Cubs apparel to work. “More fans are coming out of the woodwork than for any other team,” MacKeigan said.