Consumer Habits Give Socks Category a Sales Kick

New information from The NPD Group shows a majority of consumers wear socks when lounging at home, offering retailers new selling opportunities.
Greg Sleter
Associate Publisher/Executive Editor
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Retailers looking for the next opportunity to develop a line of private label products or perhaps an exclusive brand collection may want to consider the socks category. Yes, socks.

The NPD Group’s latest Omnibus Survey found that 64% of U.S. adults wear socks while hanging around the house. This figure is even higher for men, those in older age groups and residents of the Northeast. Figures are also high in warmer parts of the U.S. with nearly 60% of residents in those areas wearing socks at home.

NPD noted that the nation’s top-10 retailers account for 64% of sales revenue in the socks category, up from 57% in 2018. Driving this growth has been an increase in store foot traffic, which has created an opportunity for impulse purchases. Unplanned sock purchases accounted for nearly one-third of in-store purchases in 2021 — a 19% increase when compared to 2020, NPD said.

During the pandemic, socks were the number-one clothing item bought in both 2020 and 2021. In fact, one out of five clothing items purchased during both years was a pair of socks. People are even wearing them more often when they sleep. While socks worn primarily for sleeping represent only 3% of unit sales, over the last four years people have spent 21% more on socks worn for sleeping — a growth rate that is four times faster than the socks category’s overall growth.

“Brands and retailers can also find creative ways to drive impulse purchases for socks online,” said Maria Rugolo, apparel industry analyst for NPD. “This could mean more online suggestions to round out an outfit, more partnerships with footwear brands to suggest bundling offers and more reminders for consumers to add socks to their carts, especially when trying to meet free shipping thresholds.”

Rugolo noted that no matter the individual’s socks habit, the pandemic has shined a spotlight on the category

“There continues to be growth opportunities for the sock category, as usage and replenishment cycles will remain high, and sales are forecasted to grow each year through 2024,” she added