Weekend warriors will do anything to improve their golf game from getting custom clubs to buying the best balls. But there's a new one I had never heard of — high-end performance golf socks.
They're made by the folks at Kentwool, a 168-year-old family company that is used to dealing with upscale niche clothing markets.
"Ninety-five percent of all socks are fashion based," said Kentwool CEO Mark Kent. "Five percent are performance based. We basically set out to put ourselves in the top one percentile of that five percent to make the highest performing sock in any market segment. so differentiate yourself you have to become in layman's terms the Ferrari of the market, you have to be the fastest car on the street or the best performing sock in the marketplace."
The goal was to engineer a sock that would be good enough for US special forces. A sock that would perform in 125 degree heat and be just as comfortable and durable when temperatures went well below freezing. For the golfer, the idea would be to reduce stress and fatigue associated with the swing and for those that walked a full 18 holes.
When the guys in research and development as Kent what his price target was, he pushed back like a CEO in a private family business not worried about the outside pressures of answering to shareholders. Make the most unbelievable sock, then figure out what to charge to give us the right margin.
Consumers aren't used to paying big bucks for socks. They're usually grouped in packages and branding doesn't usually play a part.
"In order to make this thing anything close to commercial viable, it's going to have to go around $25 a pair," Kent recalled. "And our next closest competitor was selling their sock for $9.95. I said, "If we can get this on someone's foot, these things are going to sell and they're going to sell like hotcakes."
Kent appears to have been right. While the company won't give out specific sales numbers, he says sales are up 586 percent versus the first five months of last year. And more shops are willing to carry the socks. At the end of last year, 39 stores carried them. That has already tripled. At $25, Kent knows he needs to make both retailers and consumers feel comfortable with the spend.
"We're so confident that if (retailers) take our product and you don't sell it in the first year, we'll take it all back and refund your money," Kent said. "So far, we have yet to have anybody take us up on that."
The guarantee also applies to the customer, though again, Kent doesn't have any need to set up a return department.
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