When I was younger, I was of the mindset that a gift was defined as an exciting thing a person would never think to buy for themselves. A present had to be a fun indulgence that was separate from a typical purchase. As I grew older, my way of thinking started to change, especially around the holidays, and especially during more challenging economic times. Today, I welcome receiving and giving practical gifts. Afterall, it’s money well spent and maybe it will help alleviate someone’s economic pressures at the same time. One apparel gift that can be both practical and fun is socks!

Socks have a long-standing history during the holiday season. My mother used to tell me stories about how they would hang up their old socks (holes and all) for Santa to fill them with oranges – and hopefully a replacement pair. While the tradition evolved to hanging festive stockings, socks continue to play a big part during the season.    

Last year, 25% of all socks sold in 2022 were purchased in November and December, according to Circana’s Consumer Tracking Service. In fact, socks were the top-gifted apparel item during this time, accounting for nearly 30% of apparel units sold that were purchased as holiday gifts. The popularity of gifting socks will continue for the 2023 holiday season, especially as consumers are planning to pull back on their overall apparel spending and focus more on buying the necessities. 

According to Circana’s Future of Apparel study, total apparel dollar sales are expected to decline by 4% this holiday season, while units sold will likely perform slightly better. Despite this overall market decline, we anticipate that socks will fare better than the industry this holiday season.

Several factors will play into the success of socks this holiday season. For starters, socks fall into an attractive price-point. As such, they can serve as a standalone gift, be combined with other categories (i.e., pajamas, sweats, etc.), or can make great stocking stuffers without breaking the bank. As households remain price-conscious, items that need to be replaced will quickly become another gift to wrap and place under the tree.

Socks also tend to be an impulse purchase, especially women’s socks. In fact, 40% of women’s socks that were bought in stores last holiday season were purchased on impulse, making eye-catching product placement especially important for store displays. I know I’m constantly reminded to grab a few pairs whenever I’m waiting on the checkout line. This tactic also bodes well for those last minute-shoppers looking to fulfill gifts but have limited time to wait for online purchase deliveries. 

Regardless of spending budgets this year, socks will continue to be a staple in family stockings, including my own. To add fun to the practical, my holiday sock purchases will link to individual personalities. Afterall, high socks that say “sassy” on them are hard to pass up when you have an eight-year-old daughter. Happy Holidays!  

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