The minute my kids walk into the house they take off their shoes and socks. I, on the other hand, keep my socks on and get chilly just watching them run around barefoot on our wooden floors.
While I might feel outnumbered at home, I am not alone: 64% of U.S. adults report wearing socks while hanging out at home, according to the latest NPD Omnibus Survey results. This figure is even higher for men, older demographics, and people living in the Northeast. But even in warmer areas of the country, nearly 60% of adults still wear socks at home, proving that socks are an integral part of their lifestyle.
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 — which is four times faster than the socks category’s overall growth.
Where are consumers buying these socks? The top 10 retailers now account for 64% of sales revenue, which is up from 57% in 2018. The fact that consumers are returning to physical stores has helped sales, as more foot traffic created opportunity for impulse purchases. Unplanned sock purchases accounted for nearly one-third of in-store purchases in 2021 — a 19% increase, versus 2020 — which is something to think about, especially with regards to inventory and in-store placement.
Brands and retailers can also find creative ways to drive impulse purchases for socks online. 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 (consumers love free shipping).
Whether wearing socks more often while hanging out at home, sleeping, or wearing our sneakers, one thing is clear: the pandemic put more focus on this 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, according to the Future of Apparel report from NPD. I, for one, will continue wearing my socks at home.