5 Things to Know About Selling Promotional Socks and Footwear
The pandemic has certainly shifted the way we go about our lives. A quiet night in on a Friday might have been unheard of for some people in February 2020, but now it’s the thing they look forward to all week long while they’re working.
Speaking of working, a lot of people still haven’t returned to the office, and may not ever again. What are they supposed to wear when they’re working from home? Heels? We don’t think so.
Right now, it's all about socks.
To get a toehold on what customers and end-users are looking for in promotional footwear, we spoke with Chloe Ayres, marketing manager for Sock Club, Austin, Texas, and Kaydee Walter, marketing specialist for Strideline, Seattle. Here are five big things to know.
1. Footwear Is Forever
The biggest endorsement of the sock product category is that it’s one of the most evergreen and widely applicable product segments. There’s universal appeal for socks. They have an incredibly long lifespan, too (as long as you take care of them).
“What remains constantly exciting in the promotional sock and footwear market is the need for socks and footwear never goes away,” Walter said. “Whether events are in-person or virtual, attendees, staff, employees and more will be wearing socks and footwear somewhere.”
Because of that year-round appeal, you can find just about any excuse to add socks to a promotional campaign or themed event.
“We always have a lot of fun with our seasonal designs,” Walter continued. “We worked with a lot of customers on some great Pride socks, 4th of July [socks], and are looking forward to Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
2. The New Normal
Companies are recognizing that their employees can be just as productive when working remotely, but they still want to stay connected and maintain that culture they’ve cultivated over time. How do you give your employees something that can boost their morale from home and keep your company’s identity present? How about a comfy pair of socks or slippers to complement that work-from-home uniform?
“Speaking from an end-user trend perspective, I think that the switch to remote work has allowed for a larger market for socks,” Ayres said. “A lot of end-users are really trying to keep their employees happy and engaged while not in the office. If you search the Google Trends report for employee appreciation terms, you will see that they have skyrocketed since last November. Socks, in particular our cozier and more casual styles like our Cotton Athletic Crew, are perfect items to ship to remote teams, since they are lightweight and unbreakable.”
Like good stocking-stuffers, socks can be part of a larger themed gift or kit, too.
“Since we have always offered kitting and fulfillment services, but now offer non-sock products like branded coffee and knitted [can coolers], our team has had a lot of fun building out kits to match a theme or initiative for our distributor partners,” Ayres said.
3. The E-Commerce Boom
The lack of in-person events and even in-person shopping meant that businesses had to find other means of revenue, which is where e-commerce entered the equation. Places like music venues and restaurants turned to branded merchandise to offset lost revenue elsewhere, and often that included apparel items like socks.
“The merch trend has been super-interesting throughout the pandemic, and we are hoping that is a pattern that holds on,” Ayres said. “Industries that depend on in-person traffic for a majority of their revenue, such as restaurants and bars and even bands and music venues, have bolstered their revenue by selling branded merch online. These are some of our favorite projects with our distributor partners because they are so personal to the end-user.”
On that topic, but on the other side of the spectrum, the return of in-person events has created increased demand for bulk orders, Walter said. Events and trade shows, for example, want to really impress attendees with plenty of branded merchandise now that they can play host again.
4. High-Tech Status
Yes, there are plenty of ways to make socks more “high tech,” like enhanced breathability or performance features that assist athletic ability. But when we talk about tech and socks, we’re actually talking about one of the most successful sales verticals for footwear. At least that’s what Ayres has seen.
Think about it: Tech is pretty much writing the rules about modern workplaces. Silicon Valley jobs are known for laid-back dress codes (if they even have any), self-expression and creativity. It’s also the way that the tech industry markets itself and its gold-rush status.
“Our bread and butter has always been tech,” Ayres said. “Not only is the tech industry more casual overall, which is a natural environment for the ‘cool tie guy’ becoming the ‘cool sock guy,’ but it is a very event-heavy industry, and socks make amazing event giveaways. Tech companies are generally doing a lot of hiring and recruiting as well, and socks make a great addition to those packages.”
Ayres also mentioned finance and banking as a “surprisingly strong” industry.
“These companies are often purchasing socks for a customer promotion or client gift, and they seem to do very well,” she said. “This really even extends to the insurance industry and law offices.”
5. Ad Spend Is Back
Now that companies have a bit more freedom when it comes to spending money, they can allocate more budget toward marketing. And with their promo spend, they can afford to do a little more than just one main item. Socks are a fun way to add a touch of value or color to an existing promotional campaign.
The bottom line is that socks are applicable to almost every customer you could think of in some way, and it’s not like they’ll ever go out of style. Yes, you should pay attention to trends and athletic developments, but as long as you create something that fits most end-users and feels good on the toesies, you’re in business.