Among the "playfully sophisticated" clothes for sale at children's boutique Peek Kids are popular graphic T-shirts bearing quotes from the likes of Gandhi, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Mother Teresa — and, now, Mike Ditka.
The premium clothing store for kids has teamed up with the Chicago Bears legend on a limited run of boys' T-shirts graced with his words of wisdom.
"You never really lose until you quit trying," reads one shirt, with a big 1985 on the back in case anyone needs a reminder. "Before you can win you have to believe that you are worthy," reads the other, featuring Da Coach's retired jersey number, 89, on the back.
Made of cotton in Bears orange and blue, the T-shirts retail for $34 for boys and $28 for little boys (they fit girls too).
The limited-edition line will launch Tuesday with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. at Peek's new store in Chicago's Bucktown, at 1723 N. Damen Ave., where Ditka himself will sign purchased T-shirts. The shirts will be available only there and at Peek's Oakbrook Center and Northbrook Court stores, which opened last fall, as well as on PeekKids.com.
"We know how much Mike — I should call him Coach — means to the Chicago area," said Peek General Manager Christian Wais. "We're saying, 'Hey Chicago, we're part of the family.'"
Specialty children's stores like Peek, which represent just a slice of a children's apparel market dominated by mass-merchandise and value department stores, are poised to be in increasingly high demand, some industry analysts said, thanks to parents waiting longer to have kids and thus having higher incomes to buy high-end brands, plus younger generations of parents who value quality.
"As Generation Y parents grow as a share of the market, high-end brands and designer apparel will experience a boost in demand because this demographic values the promise of quality that name brands offer," said a February report from market research firm IBISWorld.
Sales at specialty children's retailers, excluding department stores and mass-merchandise stores, were expected to grow 1.2 percent to $10.9 billion this year, and the pace is projected to accelerate to a 2.6 percent average annual growth over the next five years, according to IBISWorld. Estimates of the total size of the children's apparel market range from $29 billion to $43 billion.
San Francisco-based Peek, founded in 2006, has 18 stores nationwide as well as a presence in Nordstrom. It aims to appeal to both kids and their parents with boys' and girls' clothes and toys that are at once fun, witty, sophisticated and nostalgic.
Last month, it launched a collection of vintage-looking Disney T-shirts featuring classic 1928-30 Mickey and Minnie Mouse designs and quotes from Walt Disney ("Whatever you do, do it well"), which almost sold out within weeks, Wais said.
The partnership with the Ditka family began when Stacy Ditka, daughter-in-law to Coach, as even she calls him, reached out to Peek to see if it was interested in carrying her football-themed line of boys' clothes, called Ditka Kids Gridiron Clothing. The line, which she launched in 2012 and co-owns with Mike Ditka, is sold at Ditka's restaurant gift shops and a dozen area boutiques.
Peek, which carries few outside brands, declined, but it instead offered to partner on a co-branded line. The Ditkas suggested the quotes, and Peek made the shirts.
"These are famous historical quotes that he is famous for saying to players and the public," Stacy Ditka said.
Wais said the Ditkas approved the products as they were developed.
"It was a seamless collaborative process," he said.