If you have always dreamed of starting your own business but don't know where to start, here are two words for you: e-commerce socks. Socks are inexpensive to buy wholesale and cheap to ship. Having a flair for design and marketing helps, as there is usually more money in starting a custom sock business with socks in interesting designs and colors than in selling generic products.
Know Your Sock Market
Knowing what sells well, what doesn't sell, and who buys the types of socks you plan to offer is key to your company's success. There is a wealth of data on the sock market available. According to Grand View Research, the international sock market was valued at $42.2 billion in 2018. Men accounted for more than 63% of sales, and while casual socks account for more than half of sales, the sale of athletic socks is expected to increase by 6.7% by 2025.
Most of these socks are sold by large manufacturers at prices that are hard for a small business to compete with. For a small business that is just starting out, it's best to find a specific niche, like specialty socks, and cater to clients within that niche, rather than try to compete against generic products that are usually sold based on price alone. Competing on price alone is a race to the bottom of the sock drawer.
Making Your Socks Business Plan
Before you can sell socks, you need to answer three important questions:
- Where will you get the socks?
- Who will buy your socks?
- How will you get your socks in front of your customers?
These questions are interrelated. If you are buying colorful dress socks at wholesale, you'll likely be selling them to young professionals. If you're making socks for newborns, then new mothers may be your primary market. You need to put yourself in front of these people where they congregate, which could be using ads on men's fashion websites or by offering free infant socks at maternity wards, using a service like Welcome Wagon.
Unless you are making the socks yourself, buying socks in bulk, customizing them and packaging is one option. You can do this by finding a manufacturer using a service like AliExpress. Better yet, you should be able to find a manufacturer or distributor who will drop ship socks directly to your customers. Another option is to design the socks yourself and use a printing/shipping company like Printful to drop ship them for you.
You also need a website with an e-commerce service such as Shopify, Amazon, Etsy or eBay so you can process orders. In addition to buying your first socks, you should budget a generous amount of money for advertising or be prepared to take social media websites like Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram by storm. You need a business license and, depending on where you live, a sales tax license.
Buying a Sock Business for Sale
If you have a bit of capital to start off with but not a lot of time, look for a sock business for sale on websites such as Exchange Marketplace or e-commerce platforms like Shopify. Drop-shipping websites can be picked up for as little as $50, while others are up to $1,000 or more, depending on their revenue and business model. Even if you don't plan on buying a turnkey sock business, take a good look at what's out there so that you can understand your market and your competition.
The $50 websites are often little more than templates with a domain name. If you're going to invest more money in a turnkey website, make sure you find out what the current sales are, whether sales have been going up or down, and how much revenue the site brings in. A website business without an established supplier or customer base won't do you much good either if you have to pay cash upfront.
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.