Consumers have been enthusiastic about subscribing to an array of products, from monthly shipments of razor cartridges to regular deliveries of trial-size personal care products. But the subscription model has gained a foothold with, fittingly, socks.
Sales of men's socks online grew 29 percent for the 12 months that ended Sept. 31, compared with a 4 percent increase in store sales, according to the NPD Group, a research firm. Sales of women's socks online were up 35 percent for the period and down 4 percent in stores.
Blacksocks, which began in 1999, claims to be the first company to offer a sock subscription and coined the phrase "sockscription." Today its plans include one in which, for a yearly subscription of $118, three pairs of men's socks are delivered four times a year.
The company initially offered only black socks, which remain its top seller, but has added colors and stripes.
"Women like lots of choices, but men buy more if they have fewer choices," said Lori Rosen, a Blacksocks managing partner.
Subscriptions tend to involve no shopping, with merchants sending socks of their choosing.
Sock Fancy, which began in March, ships a pair of socks it chooses from among multiple brands to subscribers for $9 monthly (plus $2 shipping).
Sockscribe Me sends socks of its own choosing for $10 monthly (plus $2 shipping).
Zoraab has varying subscription levels, from Sock Dabbler (two pairs monthly for $22) to Sock Connoisseur (five pairs for $49 monthly).
While some online subscriptions deliver socks from brands such as Hot Socks and Richer Poorer, others design their own.
Sock Club started in July 2012 with a monthly subscription ($12) for a pair of socks from a variety of brands, but in November for the first time shipped a sock of its own design.
Sock Panda has exclusive designs under its own label and ships a single pair of socks for a monthly subscription fee of $13. Consumers select either a plan called Out There, which has whimsical designs, or Classy, which features more conservative socks.
Foot Cardigan sells socks for men and women with designs it calls "fabulously bizarre."