When it comes to creating novelty socks, 13-year-old brand Sock It To Me has some novel concepts: Big Foot riding a bicycle. Taco-shaped dinosaurs. Skateboarding bananas.
Those playful patterns are at the heart of the label’s growing business. In 2016, the Portland, Ore.-based brand, which offers socks for men, women and children, topped $10 million in sales.
Founder and president Carrie Atkinson recalled having her own eye-catching moment in 2001: “I found these socks while working as an English teacher in South Korea. There were women selling socks on the street, and I would buy them for personal use.”
Once Atkinson returned to Oregon and struggled to find a job, she embarked on her own enterprise. “I went back to Korea and stuffed my suitcase full of socks, and brought everything to the Saturday market here in Portland. We had strong early demand,” she said. “I did that for three years, and then started thinking about how to scale and go into wholesale.”
Sock It To Me’s Peeling Out men’s crew style, $11.50; sockittome.com
The move paid off. The brand now draws about 90 percent of its revenue from wholesale and has roughly 3,500 retail accounts in the U.S.
Atkinson has even managed this with no outside funding. “I’ve reinvested our profits frugally, so the growth has all been organic,” she said, adding that luck has been a factor as well. “There are a lot of players in the market now, but when I first started, we were under the radar.”
This year, Sock It To Me is working to expand its international distribution. It currently sells in nearly a dozen countries and is partnering with a third-party rep to gain a stronger foothold in Europe and Asia.
Sock It To Me’s Tacosaurus women’s knee-highs, $12; sockittome.com
Atkinson is also focused on broadening the product offering. In addition to its novelty socks, which retail for $12 to $18, Sock It To Me introduced underwear in January 2016 and is considering loungewear.
“I also plan to put more energy into our kids’ line, and want to have more sock products in the mix, like a men’s dressy style,” said the exec. “It’s all about keeping things fresh.”