Why Happy Socks Is Bucking the Retail Trend and Opening More Stores

The challenges of the retail business have been well documented during the past year, from layoffs and stores closures to major chain bankruptcies.

But for Happy Socks founders Mikael Söderlindh and Viktor Tell, the future growth of their brand hinges on store expansion. “Retail is our strategy forward,” Söderlindh told FN at a recent event in New York to celebrate the brand’s 10-year anniversary.

Since Happy Socks was founded in 2008, much has changed for the Swedish accessories brand. Its selection of brilliantly colored and patterned socks now include a broad range styles for men, women and kids. (Many of the highlights are available now in a special anniversary box selling on Happysocks.com for $115.)

It also has expanded into other product categories such as underwear. Most recently, it launched men’s swim trunks, as well as a fashion-forward women’s sock collection called Hysteria.

But other aspects of the brand remain the same. Over the past decade, the founders have maintained a strong creative vision for the line, one that mixes childish whimsy with a dash of impertinence to create an aesthetic that appeals to a wide swath of customers — and that has inspired a large and growing sock category.

“Everybody who didn’t do colorful socks, they do colorful socks today, and anybody who wanted to have a success, they started a sock company,” said Söderlindh. “It’s everywhere around the world. It’s a bit flattering and I feel it actually drives the segment, so it’s good for everyone.”

Tell noted that in the coming seasons, he hopes to explore new ways to interpret the Happy Socks identity. “It can be ever evolving,” he said. “Our brand is stronger than just the product. So we could do a hotel or a spaceship. I don’t even know all we’re going to do.”

Happy Socks
Mikael Soderlindh (L) and Viktor Tell
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

However, the co-founders definitely are laser-focused on strengthening their retail experience.

This past year, Happy Socks ended its licensing partnership with United Legwear and took over its U.S. business. “We’re finally selling our socks in places we want and can have the same brand image globally,” said Söderlindh. “We know we can give better service to our partners than anybody else.”

Here in the States, it aims to open six branded stores in the coming year — three on the East Coast and three on the West Coast — and it has ambitious retail plans internationally. “Last year we had 50 to 60 stores, and this year we’re going to 80 to 90 permanent stores globally,” said Söderlindh.

He pointed out that today’s challenging retail market has actually made it easier for Happy Socks to secure locations. “We’re a small box — we only need 500 square foot. You can get a great deal. You don’t need to sell that much to turn a store that’s 500 square foot. And for us, it’s a huge opportunity with the retail situation going on.”

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