For Michelle Huie, her first encounter with compression legwear didn’t go well.
“I had a job where I was sitting for long periods of time, and I noticed that my legs were achy by the end of the day,” said Huie, who founded the Vim & Vigr sock brand in 2013. “A friend who is a physical therapist suggested I try compression socks, but when I went to buy some, all I could find were the ugly medical stockings.”
Indeed, this hosiery category has suffered in the past from a lack of fashion and the general impression that the product is intended only for aging consumers.
Made with strong elastics, graduated-compression legwear squeezes tightest at the ankle with reduced pressure at the top in order to increase blood flow in the legs.
In the past, it has been recommended for pregnant women, diabetics and people suffering from circulatory issues. And many elite runners utilize it to improve their performance. However, the technology also presents opportunities for the average consumer.
Vim & Vigr, for example, offers a selection of trendy socks in colorful patterns that have quickly found a following. Huie said that this year the brand will sell about 120,000 pairs, retailing for $33 to $40, to customers ranging from 20 to 95 years old.
“We feel we’re growing the market for compression socks to a younger demographic because they realize they want to stay healthy and be proactive with their health,” she said.
Similarly, Item M6, a division of German manufacturer Medi, specializes in premium legwear and shapewear with high-tech benefits.
“Our name refers to the meridian m6 point in the inside of the lower leg at the ankle,” said Sanaz Alagha, director of Item M6. “With the precise compression profile of our products, the point is stimulated and the result is promotion of blood circulation, increased energy, stress-reduction and an overall feeling of lighter legs.”
With a portfolio priced from $22 to $108 and sold at stores like Bloomingdale’s, the brand targets fashion-forward women looking for chic, healthy options. Its latest innovation, launching for fall ’16, is Anti-Cellulite Beauty Tights that combine compression with infrared ceramic crystals to reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Both labels acknowledge that their biggest challenge remains changing public perceptions about compression legwear.
But for that, they can take a page from Japanese brand Zamst, maker of sports protective equipment. For instance, its HA-1 Compression socks (selling for $60 at Dick’s Sporting Goods) have been worn by pro sports teams such as the Denver Broncos and Washington Wizards.
“Product authentication through elite athletes and bloggers is our most effective marketing tool,” said Dawn Ferreira, senior product specialist at Zamst. “We have found that sharing their experiences with our products has been a very authentic way to communicate the value of the brand to the market.”
Millennials Are Driving Sales Growth In Hosiery & Socks