“The global market for socks is 26 billion pairs; of that, India’s share is only 2 per cent, which is disproportional to its population size. This creates a massive opportunity, and is the reason why the Indian socks market is growing at 11 per cent – much faster than the world average of 4 per cent,” highlighted Vidushi Kajaria, Co-founder, Soxytoes. Moreover, the socks market in India is also largely dominated by unorganised players who are an offshoot of export brands. However, the pandemic put a pause on the growth of this industry.
Lubeina Shahpurwala, Co-founder and Partner, Mustang Socks, took over the reins of the brand in 2004 with a vision to make ‘socks a stand-out in every wardrobe’. When asked about how COVID-19 has affected the industry, she said “The humble sock has now become a fashion accessory as well as an athletic necessity. Further, it is a health focus especially with diabetic and compression socks line.”
Focusing on the pandemic to revive
“Keeping the pandemic in mind, we are deploying all tools to effectively manage the liquidity. Also, in order to mitigate losses, we are conserving cash, cutting down on discretionary spending and production, renegotiating rents, adapting to technology, going omnichannel and utilising the leftover inventory to fulfill any demand that exists,” Lubeina further mentioned.
“Online shopping is the need of the hour. Hence, it is best that we speak to our customers personally and make them feel comfortable in their socks. Keeping the pandemic and dipping sales in mind, we started with masks immediately after the lockdown and continue with it along with our lines of socks and socks-related products. We are optimistic that the market and our lives will normalise in 6 months. However, as for sales, it is difficult to predict the growth chart, but we are confident that it will pick up in 8 months,” Lubeina added.
Since 1987, Mustang has been setting the trend and making socks a part of every lifestyle. The company, with a CAGR of 15-18 per cent, produces over a million pairs of socks every month, and has 40 distributors across India. Apart from its own e-commerce portal, it also has tie-ups with large brands, retailers and e-tailors. From anti-bacterial sanitised yarn to soft elastic, non-compression socks, and even organic make, Mustang innovates a whole lot of possibilities.
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“The socks industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 5-10 years. There are many more established players and brands for socks now. The industry is getting more organised with the second generation entrepreneurs entering the trade. The idea of socks is shifting, and today it is regarded not just as a commodity, but as an experimental accessory in people’s wardrobes as well,” Harsh Saraf, Business Development Head, Supersox, mentioned while talking about the present condition of the socks industry.
“COVID-19 has severely impacted the socks industry, as demand for the product has fallen drastically. With movement being restricted to a great extent, the socks sales have been impacted. But we are looking at it as a transitionary phase. The sales for the industry will pick up once consumers make outdoors their priority,” he added.
Supersox is a socks-only brand, and Harsh emphasised that pandemic or no pandemic, they are not venturing out into any new products under the label. As for sales, he mentioned, “I think it’s still a little slow, as people have started moving out only in pockets and only for limited work and time. But once things open up fully, it would be life as usual. So, we feel that things should get better from September onwards and then there would be a new energy, and people would try to make up for the lost time. We hope to see the economy getting back on track in about 6 months, and with that, the socks category, which seems to be growing at about 30 per cent Y-o-Y.”
Supersox, launched in 2012, is treated as a pioneer of diabetes and blood pressure socks in the country today. With mercerised cotton being their most used fabric, the brand has installed over 300 state-of-the-art knitting machines at their Daman facility that manufactures 11,000,000 socks annually.
Supersox, available across 15,000+ retail stores across India, is currently distributed in the Indian market through a nationwide network of 300+ distributors. The products can be bought on their online storefront www.supersox.in as well as online on Amazon, Flipkart, and Myntra.
They are also one of the largest exporters of socks in India – supplying to Europe, North America, South America and the Middle East to top.
Vidushi Kajaria of Soxytoes highlighted how the brand is trying to re-invent its product line, “We have implemented safety and santitisation measures in line with Government guidelines and best industry practices across our entire supply chain. Today, our socks are manufactured using fully computerised automated knitting machines with minimum human involvement in the production process from raw material to finished product. However, the impact of the pandemic on our business goes beyond supply chain safety. Therefore, to ensure business viability, we have leveraged our core USPs – noticeable designs, and product innovation – to produce the coolest ever line of face masks.”
When talking about technology application for growth, Vidushi mentioned, “We recognise innovation and product development as being critical to success, both in the short and long term. We currently sell 50 per cent of our production through e-commerce and 50 per cent through bricks-and-mortar channels including kiosks, pop-ups and resellers. We have recently launched our sock subscription plan and are just about to launch our personalised socks module, which would allow customers to personalise their purchases with their names/initials monogrammed on to the socks. Soxytoes’ line of ‘noticeable’ socks is a transformational orbit-shifting innovation, which is disrupting this previously sober and boring category. We have created a cutting-edge product line, leveraging on colours, patterns and graphics. Even though the pandemic has lodged a setback to our expansion plans into the offline space, we are hopeful that this will pick up in due course, and so will our sales.”
Soxy Toes socks are manufactured using fully computerised automated knitting machines, with minimum human involvement in the production process from raw material to finished product. Apart from the casual and corporate range, the brand has its range of innovative products such as Perfomax ® high performance athletic socks, Com-Feet-able ® socks designed for comfort, Diabetic Care socks for diabetics, Compression Therapy socks and socks infused with the wellness of natural aloe vera and energising mint oils. With innovation and the right sales approach under its sleeve, Soxy Toes closed FY19-20 with a turnover of Rs. 20 million and are targeting Rs. 70 million this year.
Socks sales may have dipped, but the leading players within the industry are hopeful; many are reinventing their product lines and most of them have utilised the lockdown period to innovate their production and retail approach. It is all about time that we think they will be able to clock in some amazing numbers!