Promotional Socks: Features, Customization Options and Sales Ideas
Socks might just be the most consistent product in all of the promo space. They are immune to trends and the ebbs and flows of fashion. In other apparel categories, cuts and designs are trendy one minute and stale the next. But socks are forever. Everyone needs socks. And, unlike a mousetrap, you can continue to build a better sock. There are ways to make them more hygienic, add more features or make them more functional.
“Socks are socks, for the most part,” says Kaydee Walter, marketing specialist for Strideline, Seattle. “It’s just a matter of constantly working to make them look, feel and perform better.”
You know that end-buyer clients want something their end-users will use for a long time, thus attaching their logo and brand to their lives for an extended period. Socks and footwear are things people use literally every day. No, they probably don’t (and shouldn’t) wear the same pair every single day. But the product is built into their daily routine, and it’s locked into their schedule for use for as long as the material holds up. T-shirts are definitely in that same category, but if you wear the same T-shirt three days later, people will notice.
“They make for a unique promo item that people can actually wear frequently without looking like they’re over-wearing [or over-using] something,” Walter added. “This may sound corny, but socks work for every sales vertical. Every single employee of every single company wears socks daily, or at least almost daily.”
Features (More like feetures. Get it? Never mind)
We don’t have to preach the importance of socks to you. You’re probably well aware that socks and footwear are important. You’re probably even wearing socks right now. But what you might not know are some of the many capabilities that companies have to make socks more interesting or functional than just covering your feet.
Kelly Yarborough, aka Sockrateez and chief wisdom officer for Sock101, Lee's Summit, Mo., said that some of the most popular features on socks have been things like grippiness on the bottom, extra-comfy fuzzy material and even pockets for working out.
In the current situation we find ourselves in, most people are hanging out at home a lot. As Yarborough puts it, plenty of people are looking for comfy socks to kick their feet up and relax. Others are doing home workouts like yoga for the first time and need the grip. And some are getting out and running during the day and need somewhere to put their credit card.
But aside from just staying home, the pandemic has created demand for other types of socks with clients in the tourism and hospitality industry, which is just getting its wheels going again in a lot of states.
“The pandemic [made] people not want to touch floors, like at hotels and things before travel ended, and now at home just wanting more protection not touching things directly,” he said. “So sanitation socks have become kind of a new item for us. … We’ve done sanitation socks where, you know, you’re out at a hotel walking around, you’ve got a pair of logoed socks with grippies on them so you’re not touching the floor directly.”
Aside from the construction and intended purposes of the items, there are ever-evolving decoration capabilities that could appeal to a lot of customers right now.
Tony Garber, vice president and owner of SocksQuick, Fort Payne, Ala., says that being able to match a uniform or color scheme can set you apart from competition.
“Custom socks with logos and other team preferences have become huge in this category,” he says. “What sets this product apart from core product lines of big retailers is the ability to match team uniforms.”
If you can nail the color scheme to a company’s branding, the socks and footwear items can be a part of a company or team store for a long time. Also, Walter says that dye-sublimation opens the door to fun and creative opportunities you don’t get with a one-spot logo placement.
And Yarborough said that having the ability to do both one-off items like shoes and socks, as well as kitting capabilities, has been hugely appealing to customers lately. With events being canceled, companies are looking for on-boarding kits and one-off products from events drop-shipped to would-be attendees.
“With events being canceled, a lot of people are looking at opportunities where they can still stay in front of their clients or employees, and drop shipping has been a big way to do that,” Yarborough says. “We offer custom boxes as well, and the clients are sending other stuff that they want kitted. … A lot of summer celebrations saying, ‘Hey, we’re sorry we’re not having our summer get together. Here’s a kit. Go ahead and celebrate summer your way.’”
If you’ve paid any attention to the apparel world lately, you’ll notice that products made from recycled material and eco-friendly fabrics are all the rage. Younger generations, now grown up and in purchasing positions, have for their whole lives been taught the importance of environmental protection and the dangers of climate change. Finding a solution in the form of environmentally-friendly socks and footwear is a must.
“Using recyclable/eco-friendly materials is and should be growing in priority across all categories,” Walter says. “We certainly hope that interest in sustainable products continues to grow across all industries as prioritizing a more sustainable product in the future is our responsibility not only to create as suppliers but also to demand as consumers.”
Garber added that his company has been using materials like bamboo and hemp, which you’ve probably also seen around the trade show floors over the last few years.
But Yarborough noted that while these flashy displays of environmental altruism might seem like a good move, not all cotton or polyester alternatives are actually as environmentally friendly as they seem.
“For bamboo, yes it’s a green material, but the process to get that to a product isn’t exactly the greenest of processes,” he says. “So [we have] to inform our customers what really is green and sustainable and what isn’t. I think there’s a lot of misnomers in the industry, like, ‘Hey, we do green.’ Well, the process behind to get that material to green may not actually be better than had you just knitted a normal cotton sock, you know what I mean?”
Something for Everyone
It might seem like we get paid by Big Sock every time we say “socks are universal,” but we don’t. They really are. If you can find a combination of fun and innovative features for footwear that stand apart from the basic crew socks, that’s great and will probably land you business. If you stick with the traditional designs and constructions, that will also work just fine.
What’s important is using the customization opportunities socks present to match your customers’ brands perfectly, fulfill a need, and give them the exact quantity they want. Now that suppliers are making it so you can do one-off runs of socks and shoes for events (whether they’re happening in real life or not), there is even more opportunity for new customers. And for your existing ones, ask them about kitting, company stores or just regular giveaways.
“Socks are great and people will never stop needing them!” Walter says. “You might as well have fun ones that look and feel great!”