Alabama may not be widely known as a major sock exporter, but Fort Payne was actually producing one out of every eight pairs socks sold around the world for decades. Now, a young entrepreneur from North Alabama is looking to help reclaim the region’s title as “Sock Capital of the World.”
According to Yellowhammer News, Alabama native Gina Locklear decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps as a sock maker after spending three years in the real estate industry. Locklear’s dream was to produce organic socks that are rich in style and fashion.
Locklear’s parents founded Emi-G Knitting in 1991, which produced plain socks for Russell Athletics when the North Alabama sock industry was booming. However, cheap foreign labor competition and the 2008 financial crisis forced them to make drastic cutbacks on their production in the past decade.
Seeing an opportunity to change career paths, Locklear decided to start making custom socks in her parents’ old factory. The savvy businesswoman now has two unique lines of socks that she produces in the factory: Zkano, which features fun colorful patterns, and Little River Sock Mill, which is aimed towards a more upscale audience.
Both brands are composed of 100% organic materials, which helps Locklear appeal to eco-friendly consumers and Millennials. She also utilizes her youth when it comes to marketing by staying active on social media to spread the word about her latest creations.
About 67% of consumers purchase products because a sign caught their eye, but it’s much more difficult to excite customers with sock advertisements. Therefore, Locklear tries to focus on the unique appeal of her fashionable socks for all of her marketing content.
“Everyone needs socks. Women are wearing socks as a fashion statement like never before. Turn the pages of Vogue and almost every fancy dress is worn with a pair of socks,” Locklear said.
As Bloomberg recently reported, Locklear entered one of the most consistently lucrative markets on the planet when she decided to launch her sock start-up. U.S. shoppers spent approximately $2.8 billion on men’s socks in 2013 alone, and that doesn’t even include sales for women’s and children’s socks.
Last fall, Locklear’s rapid success caught the attention of Martha Stewart. Soon after, she was given the Martha Stewart American Made award, which recognizes small businesses that show great potential in their industry.
“Encouraging the American public to buy American-made matters,” Stewart said of Locklear. “The more socks she sells, the more people she can employ.”
Locklear knows she has a long road ahead of her, but she’s embracing the challenge of making North Alabama the “Sock Capital of the World” once again.
“It’s hard every day but I still love it,” Locklear said. “It’s what I want to do forever.”