Sock company, Feetures, thriving during pandemic

Socks are sold in 50 countries and 7,000 stores in the U.S., but that’s not what made them so successful in the last two years.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A father and his two sons are celebrating 20 years in business in Charlotte and enjoying some of their biggest sales yet. All thanks to the pandemic.

Socks are sold in 50 countries and 7,000 stores in the US, but that’s not what made them so successful in the last two years.

It’s been all in the family from the very beginning at Feetures. Hugh Gaither founded Feetures after the hosiery company he’d worked at for almost three decades closed.

“So I had to do something different,” Hugh said. “I had four kids, three in college, and I thought since I’d enjoyed the sport sock part of the business there was an opportunity to make that a little better product.”

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His then-15-year-old son came up with the name at the family’s Charlotte home.

“Joe was sitting there doing his homework said Feetures: F-E-E-T-U-R-E-S and I said whoa, that’s a pretty neat name and it stuck and still with us for 20 years,” he said. 

He recruited his oldest son John, then a recent Davidson grad, with a history degree to help him get the business going.

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“I learned business on the job and realized where my strengths were, we realized my strengths, my dads, and my brothers and we’re all a little bit different,” John remembered. 

Younger brother Joe, the one who named the company, joined as soon as he graduated and now the family business is celebrating 20 years.

“It’s been really fast-growing and fast-paced,” Joe said.

Their socks are sold in 50 countries and more than 6,000 stores, but the pandemic brought them unexpected growth.

“Last year was a phenomenal year of growth,” John said. “We grew between 30% and 40%.”

That growth happened after a shaky few months. At the start of the pandemic, they were worried because stores were closed and retail business was plummeting.

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“In a way, it opened new doors for us we were able to pivot. Most of our business up to that point had been at retail,” Hugh explained. “Joe who’s leading marketing and digital said if we focus more on this part of our business we can grow and it grew and it took off.”

Now they focus as much on selling their socks at Dick’s Sporting Goods and running stores as they do on their online sales. And they say even after 20 years of working together, they still enjoy family dinners.

“We have respectful disagreements and conversations that bring different perspectives to the table,” Hugh said. “And in a way that’s a good thing in business to have different points of view its been a  lot of fun, it’s been a pleasure.” 

The company also works with a number of non-profits, including Charlotte-based Let Me Run, which looks to inspire boys through running. And they recently partnered with the Charlotte Marathon to help grow the brand’s recognition in their hometown.

Contact Michelle at mboudin@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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