Buisness Sock-Sess for Simcan

These are exerpts from an article written by Jan Dean and published in the Business Times

The textile industry in North America is dying out. But that hasn’t stopped a former real estate executive from building a thriving sock business in Cambridge – the city that was once Ontario’s textile capital. Simcan, the sock company that Jim Simmons and his wife Marsha started in 1991 produced its millionth pair of Comfort Sock – the best selling health sock in Canada – this past June.

About 10 or 12 years ago, a local retailer came to Simmons with a design problem. The retailer dealt with many older consumers and wanted socks designed for those with health issues that impacted their feet.

Over the next half year Simmons’ company did their market research and investigated what yarn fibres and knitting construction techniques would be required. The result was the Simcan Comfort Sock.

The Comfort Sock is designed for people with health problems that impact the foot. And there are a lot of medical conditions that affect feet ranging from diabetes, edema, vascular disorders, gout, and athlete’s foot to corns and bunions. All the Simcan branded socks are endorsed by the Canadian Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA). The socks won’t cure the problem, but they can make life a lot more comfortable.

Simmons’ market research showed there was a huge market for health products as baby boomers age and develop medical conditions that require special socks. Simcan was one of the few businesses serving the market, so Simmons said they decided to curtail their fashion production and focus developing and growing their health brands.

Simmons said the company has positioned its price point to the typical consumer who would wear the product – often that consumer is older and on a fixed income, possibly retired. The people most prone to developing some of the ’preventable’ health issues that require Comfort Socks are often lower wage earners. Where many of their competitors are pricing health socks at $15 to $25 a pair, most Simcan products are priced under $10.

Currently Simcan exports about 25 per cent of its production to other countries like the U.S., Scotland, Ireland and Australia. And while other countries are belatedly getting into the market, Simcan has had the time to fine-tune its products, and become familiar to consumers and retailers. “Sears and the Bay carry our products as well as our competitors, and they have indicated to us that our products out-sell the other brands about 10 to one,” said Simmons.

The brand is strong. And the number of potential customers is growing. Diabetes is the fastest growing preventable disease. Estimates are that by 2010 there will be 3.5 million people diagnosed with diabetes in Canada, with another 25 per cent of that number undiagnosed. And with the average median age of Canadians and Americans increasing each year, the market for Simcan Comfort Socks is growing.