In the recently published 2002 SNEWS Annual Retailer Survey, the top-selling softwear category for retailers was socks. In the last two years, the category had held the No. 1 or No. 2 spot on the survey and proves again that socks are a great add-on sell, as well as a strong selling stand-alone category. Here are a few highlights from Outdoor Retailer Winter Market:
Bridgedale had a few new winter offerings. First, it nixed the separate ski and snowboard sock packaging and merged essentially the same sock into one package called the Snow Sport. The sock that received the most attention at the show was the Cross-Country Ski sock, a blend of merino wool and Isolfil with alternating heavy and thin padding in targeted areas of the sock. Bridgedale, which is expanding its women's-specific line, also has a new women's mid-weight Ski sock with an arch and ankle flex zone and thicker padding at the shin and toe areas. Also new is color-coded packaging to help retailers and customers sort out the product, as well as a general introduction of more design and color touches on both packaging and product.
Fox River debuted the company's first outdoor cross training line, dubbed OXT. With four styles, the line is intended for use during serious outdoor activity and features a blend of merino wool and polypropylene that the company claims dries 25-percent faster than regular merino wool and is much more abrasion resistant. Several of the SNEWS team wore the socks during SIA and Outdoor Retailer and reported having happy dogs despite hours of shoe confinement.
Mosox, an urban-market sock brand that came onto the outdoor scene last season, showed off its new MoExpedition Collection inspired by the Pioneer Climbing Expedition, the first team of African Americans attempting to reach the Seven Summits. The Advanced and Elite Hiker socks are constructed to perform in light-to-extreme outdoor conditions using Thermolite, MicroSupreme, BioFresh, merino wool and Lycra. Mosox's goal is to combine the style of the urban market with high-quality materials, a noble cause which may flounder in a stick-to-its-ways industry that already has so many established brands. Touting Bureau of Labor statistics that say the collective buying power of minorities is $1 trillion, Mosox said it's attempting to infuse this potentially profitable marketplace into the outdoor industry. The real question is, will the industry give it a chance?
SmartWool was focused more on its new apparel offerings rather than its socks, the product category that essentially got the company where it is today. About the only new offerings we came across were three athletic sock additions: the warm climate RBX Micro Mini, a light half-cushion anklet with a waffle-knit instep and an arch brace knit with elastic; the cold-weather trainer RBX Slush Puppy, a three-quarter version of the RBX Racer, features an ankle brace, elasticized arch brace and waffle-knit instep; and the No Show, a lightly cushioned sock for everyday wear with low height for a no-show look.
Wigwam had some fun with materials in its new styles for women. First off, the Teddy Bear crew sock caught our eye with its Chia-pet fur look, thanks to a blend of nylon, acrylic and Olefin. A little on the thick side, it and your foot still fit into a shoe for a warm cushy feel. The Cloud 9 and the Cozy Toe, which has the look and feel of terry cloth, are stay-at-home slipper socks made of merino wool, angora rabbit fiber, nylon and elastic. Wigwam has produced women's-specific packaging that it says will "talk" to its female customers, and may do just that with its easy-to-understand graphics and product descriptions. It also added new athletic and snow-sports versions to its Ingenius sock line, which knits the liner sock and outer sock knit together as one fabric.
Thorlos added the Women's Hiker Thor-Lon to the women's line. The mid-weight hiking sock is made of the company's proprietary yarn, which provides padding and wicking properties and the company says will mean more comfort for rocky and varied terrain.