Episode 49 - S.O.C.K. in the USA
Trying to scale a business can be a difficult task, especially during a pandemic. Many companies found that embracing e-commerce over the past year was a force multiplier for their business. Joining Joe this week is Hugh Gaither, the Founder & CEO of Feetures, a leading performance sock brand, that has been family-owned and operated in North Carolina since 2002. Hugh discusses the birth of Feetures and how e-commerce was a big driver for the company in 2020.
About Hugh Gaither:
In 2002 after spending 27 years with Ridgeview sock and hosiery company, Hugh Gaither believed there was an opportunity to create a more technical, higher, performance sock that took advantage of the latest breakthroughs in sock technology. As a runner and someone who was passionate about being active, Hugh wanted to design a sock that would enhance the performance of runners and other athletes. He visited malls and sporting goods stores to do research and noticed that products in the “sports sock” category in 2000 were the same ones that he’d seen since the early 80’s with minimal changes. That’s when he came up with the idea of a sock with a seamless toe, a snug fit, and using fibers that conformed to the foot to advance socks in the same logical direction as running and athletic shoes.
This new breakthrough product made a bold claim — that it prevented blisters — something almost every runner and athlete had experienced and believed to be unavoidable. His new socks were a hit. Under Hugh’s direction, Feetures has built its brand in run, footwear, and sporting goods specialty stores through product differentiation, grassroots marketing, and superior customer service. Since 2002, Feetures has grown with a national and international portfolio at over 4,500 doors in the US, including at larger outlets such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Academy Sports, Athleta, and Golf Galaxy. Internationally Feetures’ portfolio includes distribution in 50 countries including China, Australia, Canada, and Europe.
Since the beginning, Hugh’s main goal with Feetures was helping people to perform at their best. Hugh will be the first to tell you that his goal has never been about a number –not a revenue number, nor a number of retailers, not even a number of consumers – just providing products that help people perform at their peak.
In 2012, Feetures reengineered the sock with breakthrough technology called Targeted Compression. This new feature, combined with an anatomical design, resulted in a custom-like fit that was superior to the competition. Now called Feetures Elite , this product took the brand to a whole new level. Running retailers and consumers around the world quickly embraced the new technology, that delivered an enhanced fit and performance.
When it comes to successfully running a family business, Hugh attributes their accomplishments to the fact that every day their sole focus is to make the best performance socks in the world and treat people they work with the way they want to be treated. It’s important to Hugh to also make a positive difference in his company, with his employees, the communities he operates in, and in the world. To that end, he and the Feetures team are always looking for ways to give back, whether it’s through their continual work with Charlotte-based nonprofit organization, Let Me Run, which has a footprint across 27 states or their past partnerships with Samaritan’s Feet, Access To Success, Running Works, the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, Hugh makes sure that Feetures as a company does more than just sell socks, that they also make a difference in the world the best they can. Just this past year with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hugh worked with their partner and retailer, Fleet Feet, to donate 28,000 pairs of socks to hospital staff and healthcare workers at medical facilities throughout the United States.