Team Insight

May / June 2019

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N ew socks are a harbinger of every sport season. There's something about the understated appeal of pulling on new socks – along with a new uniform, of course -- and anticipating that first game. It has been that way for generations — only today's socks are much, much different than those worn by athletes on past opening days. For most teams, solid color multi-sport socks lead the way. Moisture wicking, well fitting and odor absorbing, these athletic socks a certainly far cry from the ubiquitous tube sock of years ago. The sock world is crowded with choices, features and price points and there are always new socks and technologies to consider. Team dealers sell mostly solid color socks to teams, choosing to work with vendors that offer quality, wide color selection, quick delivery and an affordable price. "At the high school level our choice is Twin City Knitting's Multisport Pro socks in a sport-specific version. It's a better sock, with enhanced fit and durability. This is our go-to sock unless it's a branded school with all Adidas," says Sammy Maddox, owner of C&M Sporting Goods, Dothan, AL. "For leagues, price is the dominant consideration and Twin City's TS series all sport sock fits the bill." While 90 percent of the socks he sells are solid colors, some of his recreational softball team and travel teams call a different play. "When they want to stand out, they order a pattern style Red Lion sock with polka dots, monkeys or lions, and wear the shorter pants style to show off their socks, " says Maddox. All Star Sports, Florence, SC, outfits most teams with polyester blend multisport socks from brands such as Twin City, Champro, Under Armour and Adidas. "We sell socks that offer good comfort and fit and are an economical choice for schools and recreation leagues. It's mostly a solid color sock, one pair per person ordered with the uniform," says Grant Huckabee, retail manager and team sales. Bulk buys of no-shows, quarters, crews and over-the-calf lengths make up the majority of socks sales at Bacon & Company, Knoxville, TN. "Twin City Knitting's all-sport sock is the number one sock for us. We go to them first to make sure every team can get the color and length they need, for youth to adult," says team salesman Danny Sutton. "Generally speaking, the youth leagues are looking for a price-point sock," he adds. "As the kids progress the colorway becomes more important. The older athletes play more games and are more focused on comfort and other performance features such as heel/toe arch support. They're also more likely to buy mul- tiple pairs so they don't have to do laundry every day." For Nicklasson Athletic Company, New Ulm, MN, which serves schools and recreational leagues in a rural area, most socks are sold in its retail store. "Our school budget cuts preclude them from furnishing a sock. When they do, it is typically a lower end sock that may last one season," says owner Mitch More. "Typically the coach specifies the color and the kids either buy socks in our store or go online. This is an all-sport sock, over-the-calf for football, soccer and baseball and crew length for basketball." These dealers demonstrate that the classic all-sport tube socks remain relevant in the team market. "Multi-sport tube socks remain the largest seller, but teams at all levels are looking for something more," says Brad Davis, national sales manager for Twin City Knitting. "It can be a relatively easy sell to upgrade the sock purchase. Selling higher priced, higher margin items simply comes down to showing the product in most cases. They are an easy sell when they come out of the bag." Athletes want a comfortable sock to slip into their high-tech shoes and advances in knitting technology and yarns continue to change the game. Sport-specific socks are designed to improve the athlete's comfort and perfor- mance, including moisture-wicking materials to prevent blisters, cushioning, built-in arch support, ventilation zones, reinforced high- abrasion points, seamless toes and strategic compression. New technology continues to change the sock market. "Tube socks still remain king. However, this year we have done our due diligence on what our end customers want and launched a plethora of new styles and fits, incorporating new programs, yarns and patterns," says Scott Shulman, operations manager at Pearsox. "You get what you pay for and a higher margin athletic sock means more durability and more 44 Team Insight ~ May/June 2019 BULLISH ON THE SOCK MARKET These aren't your father's team socks any more as dealers look to upgrade the category. By Nancy Baeder Photo: TCK pro builder style. APPAREL SOCKS

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