Trying to learn how to start a sock business from scratch?
A few years ago, tons of people were doing the same. In fact, I think it’s safe to say there was a huge “sock business” boom. In that boom, you saw new DTC sock brands popping up left and right. Today, things have slowed down, but the sock business is still thriving.
This means there is a ton of competition you’ll have to deal with.
However, this also means there are tons of sock business models to analyze, lots of sock buyers you wouldn’t have had access to before, and proof of concept of the sock industry. So there’s a huge opportunity for you if you want to learn how to start a sock business.
Now, let’s talk about the details…
How Much Does It Cost To Start A Sock Business?
Any sort of apparel business is extremely tough, but socks are different.
With socks, you have to go through all of the same hoops as anything else. This includes fabric sourcing, technology, colors, and more. However, it’s actually much cheaper to produce a sock than say something like a shirt. You can also charge more, leading to amazing margins.
Of course, this is going to be highly dependent on what you want to make.
It also depends on who you’re working with.
Assuming you’re going to make 1 sock in 1 design though, it’s safe to say that you can expect to invest anywhere between $2,000-$10,000. The range is going to mainly come down to minimums. Some manufacturers will let you start with only a few hundred pairs of socks and others will want you to order thousands to work with them.
The good news?
Socks have amazing margins. Even with high end materials, you can expect to see margins ranging anywhere between 70% and 90%. This is almost unheard of in the apparel space. So if you can find a manufacturer with low minimums, you’re still solid.
How To Design Socks To Sell
I’m not a designer, so I’m not going to pretend I am.
However, I do understand what type of socks designs will sell and that’s because you don’t have to be a designer to understand this. You just have to be able to follow the data.
This all starts with analyzing your top 5-10 direct competitors.
Ideally, these competitors are other direct to consumer brands. You don’t want to put Nike on that list. Because if Nike is a direct competitor, you need to niche down your brand so you’re not forced to directly compete with them.
Now, go through all of your competitors best sellers and see what they have in common.
If you look through all of their best selling designs, you’re going to notice a common denominator between them. You want to make your sock based on that common denominator. And even if you can’t, you’re going to notice what is working for each brand and take the best parts of each and put them into your sock.
This works because sales is the only true indicator of success.
If these successful brands are selling tons of units, then people really like that sock. And if people really like that sock, the best thing you can do is model after it. This will give you the straightest line toward success. Now, it doesn’t mean you have to completely copy them. It just means you need to use their sales data to determine what people already buy and then make your own version based on that data.
How To Manufacture Socks 101
Want to learn how to start a sock business?
Then you’ve got to learn how the manufacturing process works.
The foundation of your sock is going to come from the material that you use. This includes everything from traditional cotton to high end materials like merino wool. Everything from your costs, lead time, and minimums are going to be affected by the type of material you use.
Basically, the higher end materials will cost more and take more time to make.
Next comes any technology you may want on the sock. For example, you can make socks that eliminate odor. You can also make a sock with grippers. In either case, this is also going to take longer to manufacture. Not to mention the time it will take for you to decide if you want it or not.
Then comes the coloring process.
It will take 1 month to get yarn dip approvals and another 2-3 weeks to get failed colors re-approved. It will also take an additional 1-2 months to dye sample yarn.
Finally, there’s knitting. This takes maybe 1-2 more months.
This doesn’t count any iterations on samples.
Overall though, it will take you maybe 5-6 months to manufacture a batch of socks. The pricing per unit will also vary based on what you decide to do.
The Secret To Selling Socks For Profit
As I said earlier, socks have amazing margins. Typically 70%-90%.
Your goal is to try to sell these socks while minimizing your CAC or customer acquisition costs. Most of this is going to come down to your traffic source, which we’ll talk about in the next section. However, one of the most important factors you will need to worry about is your USP because a differentiated product will have a smaller CAC than a generic sock.
So, it’s critical to figure out why people should buy your sock over everyone elses.
Some ways you can decide on this includes…
Certain style of designs
Specializing in a type of fabric
Having unique technology
Built for a specific type of person
What you want to do is go back to your list of 5-10 direct competitors and see what they do. You want to keep 80% of what makes them successful, but then make the other 20% unique in a way that is easily demonstrable.
For example, you can make anti-slip socks for seniors.
Another example is socks made from 100% tencel.
Either way, you want to make it obvious for the average consumer. From there, you want to make it a focal point of your marketing message. Doing this will reduce your acquisition costs and will help you keep as much of your profit margin as possible.
This is the secret you won’t read in other “how to start a sock business” articles.
The Ultimate Sock Business Plan
If you really want to learn how to start a sock business, here’s how I would do it myself…
Because socks have an amazing profit margin, I would start selling them straight up.
However, I would first try to validate the business by hiring a designer to come up with a great mockup of your sock. Along with this, you need to know as much of the details about your product as possible. This includes your USP, materials, and any sizing issues. Then sell at least a few pairs of socks through ads to test if people want them.
If the numbers look good, then I would refund all orders and start manufacturing.
The manufacturing in it of itself will take a good 5-6 months. Most people would wait around until the product is done, but because we’ve already validated the idea, I would immediately start working on building an audience. This can be any type of blog, Youtube, Instagram, or TikTok about your topic.
So if you’re selling socks for crossfitters, build an audience of crossfitters.
After 6 months, you’ll have a very small audience, but you would have built your initial list of buyers and laid the foundation for the next 12 months of your brand. At this point, you’ll also be ready to start selling. This means it’s time for launch.
So set up your Shopify store and start promoting your socks to your audience.
Depending on how big your audience is, you may or may not have sold your entire stock. If you did, it’s time to order more. If not, then it’s time to directly look for more marketing channels. This means continuing to grow your audience, but also looking into earned media.
So use your socks to get featured in different outlets and by other social media influencers.
What’s great about earned media is that it’s basically free. It’s also the only type of media that actually builds your credibility. Lastly, it’s also relatively simple to make happen. It comes down to creating your dream 100 list of outlets and influencers, then just sending them free pairs of socks.
Finally, you can start paid advertising.
By now, you’ve validated your brand, you have sales data, and you have proof elements. You want to take all of this now to your Facebook and Instagram ads. Start slow and start by promoting your value proposition and proof elements. Ideally, you’re selling a “trial pack” of multiple types of socks or a bundle of one sock type.
With that AOV, you should easily be able to afford your paid ads.
After all of this, then you can worry about things like appearing on Amazon.