Men’s Socks

May 8, 2013: Sock It to Me

The recession may be behind us, but men aren’t exactly rushing to the stores to refresh their wardrobes. Global Information firm NPD Group released its Consumer Tracking Service for 2012 last month; it shows men’s apparel only grew 1 percent last year to $57 billion. This runs counter to the trend in the previous few years when, NPD reports, “Growth in sales of men’s apparel consistently outpaced growth in women’s” clothing.

But this doesn’t mean men stopped shopping in 2012. However, instead of buying shirts and jeans, they’ve gone casual-spending their money on underwear (up 13 percent), socks (up 12 percent) and shorts (up 11 percent). Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst, says, “In addition to updating the basics of their wardrobe-underwear, socks and other essentials-this year men started to feel comfortable about taking more fashion risks. They invested in ‘dressing down’ with spending on colorful socks and bottoms.”

I grew up in this business, my dad owned a men’s clothing store for more than 20 years-and it’s clear to me the opportunity for entrepreneurs here is where men are shopping. NPD Group reports men are buying their colorful socks and underwear (emphasis on colorful) from specialty retailers and not at the national chains or mass retailers-and they’re looking to save money when they’re shopping.

These items are ideal for online retailers to sell as well. Since socks and underwear don’t vary in fit as much as clothing does, there’s less guesswork involved in buying, likely resulting in fewer returns.

Also important to note is the fact that more and more men are shopping for themselves-65 percent of men’s apparel was purchased by men. So if you thought it was the wives and girlfriends who did the shopping, think again.