What to Know About the Booming Promotional Socks Category
We really have to hand it to feet. Not only have their various shapes and sizes proven a boon for the footwear market, they have also inspired a revolution in sock selection. According to a 2016 report from Transparency Market Research, experts have stated that, come 2023, the global footwear market will hit $11.6 billion in U.S. dollars, with exponential growth stemming from “rising demand for high-end and luxurious socks.” That's good news for distributors selling promotional socks.
No matter the sort of sock that someone is craving, an abundance of options exists, and creativity has coupled with comfort to compel end-users to seek companies who will cater to their call for novelty. What, then, does it take to provide buyers and wearers with promotional socks they’ll love? Promo Marketing talked to Vincent Goralczyk, president of Custom Sock Line LLC, Dumont, N.J.; Chloe Ayres, marketing manager for Sock Club Enterprises LLC, Austin, Texas; and Kelly Yarborough, CEO of Sock101, Lee’s Summit, Mo., to find out.
Socks on the rise
Socks are incredibly versatile in everything from application (office, casual, athletic), to decoration (understated or colorful), to material (nylon, cotton, polyester, etc.) That variety has helped socks evolve rapidly from plain everyday basics to promotional standouts. While fancy cars and luxurious houses will never lose their clout as status indicators, we can see socks as their peers, albeit with a far smaller price tag. More than anything, they’re a great means of expression.
“Every time we go to trade shows, we hear ‘Socks are hot right now,’” Ayres said. “That is certainly true, but it has also been true for the past four years. We think socks are growing in popularity because they are a practical, useful, unisex promo item that allows for a lot of creativity. They also are pretty much one-size-fits-most and very easy to stock and ship, so they are a great alternative to a T-shirt.”
Both Ayres and Yarborough explained that consumers’ enthusiasm for casual attire has benefited the advance of socks as a wardrobe constant, with the former stating that “This means fewer suits, fewer ties, fewer stockings and more opportunity for dressing creatively and with personality. Fun socks are a great way to do that.”
“With the workplace going more business casual, socks became the new tie for guys,” Yarborough said, giving a nod to employees’ desires for individuality. “Funky socks became a way to show that little personality and have fun with it. Plain socks are done and funky is the new norm. It isn’t going away any time soon.”
Goralczyk paired his peers’ assessments with a bit of a history lesson, contending that the growth of custom branded socks within the promotional products industry began when minimum order quantity and pricing came down. Before those occasions, high minimum orders and equally exorbitant cost-per-pair quotes made custom sock production a test of one’s bottom line and patience, largely rendering the products a distinct indicator of little more than vanity.
“I do not think, like numerous promo products, that they will diminish in popularity,” the Goralczyk said. “Socks are one of the few branded products that give the client such a captive audience for pennies a day.”
Our sources have devoted themselves to staying ahead of trends, valuing customer feedback and seeking more opportunities to push socks to the forefront, all in the name of obtaining what Goralczyk dubbed “positive, continuous exposure.” For them, matching their ambition to be innovators with clients’ and end-users’ verve for ingenuity, particularly via designs, has become an exercise in simplicity. And, of course, they gladly welcome distributors to the promotional socks party.
“Now is the perfect time to join the world of promotional socks, because there is so much room to grow,” Ayres said. “We like to say that any time you would make a T-shirt for a client, you could sell them a sock, and it’s really true. There are so many different sizes and styles of socks, and literally everyone wears them. It is still a relatively new [promotional] item, so it makes brands stand out as innovative and creative. We are just here to make you look good!”
That fervor for fashion has also involved giving ample attention to production considerations and knitting capabilities, with Goralczyk proud to relay that the latter element has helped Custom Sock Line to produce custom knit socks with up to eight yarn colors. And while a sock’s makeup is obviously important, Ayres and Yarborough said that top-quality customer service also leads to even more chances to promote socks as a worthwhile commodity through which to make one’s business identity.
“Socks are so different than most promotional products because if a client makes a cool sock, guys will wear them to work, home and out that night and never stop showing them off,” Yarborough said. “So, ultimately, your client is getting double, triple the exposure. It is a quick, fun and inexpensive way for guys to get into fashion again.”
“We are expecting to have a lot of opportunities to close the education gap,” Ayres said of what the rest of 2019 could yield for Sock Club. “A lot of people are hesitant to put socks on the table because they feel like their clients will think it is too crazy of an idea, but our sock programs are always such a big hit once we can get them in the door. We are trying to get the word out about positive experiences that our clients have had in a variety of industries so that decision-makers will feel more confident about their purchase.”
What else to consider
If our sources’ glowing recommendations and the aforementioned sock statistics have resonated with you, what further pointers do you need to join the crew? (What’s a socks article minus a pun?) When distributors and suppliers are seeking a strong partnership, what must be present to cushion that bond?
“Know your product,” Ayres said, echoing sentiments from Goralczyk and Yarborough. “We sound like crazy people when we are talking about how our socks are made, how far you can push design and what the minute differences between socks are, but that is because we are obsessed with our product and making it better. This has allowed us to push the boundaries on design and guide our clients to decisions that will make their sock programs more successful.”
Ayres also stressed communicating with suppliers and clients, finding a supplier with a fast turnaround for orders, and a appreciating the intangibles as additional musts for finding success in the sock realm.
“I think the category of socks will continue to grow rapidly in 2019 because there are still a lot of people and companies that are late to this trend,” Yarborough predicted. “I think with newer fashion trends and pushing design capabilities, we are going to see sock styles that we haven’t even thought of before. Therefore, when looking for a good sock supplier, you should find someone who is fun and easy to work with. To other potential sock suppliers, I would say you have to follow your gut, have fun and always make it easy.”