This week, we’re putting the spotlight on Floorplay Socks, one of Canada’s best specialty stores for socks. With four locations all around Canada plus a strong ecommerce presence, this retailer has become the go-to source for premium, high-quality socks.
Floorplay Socks has performed incredibly well in terms of growth and profitability. The company turned a profit just a few months after opening and has grown at a rate of about 1 new store every 18 months.
We caught up with Janet Wright, the founder of Floorplay Socks, and asked her to share her experience with running and growing the business.
Check out what she has to say!
The story behind Floorplay Socks
Prior to starting the business, Janet held an elected position at the City of Toronto Union. After her term, she opted not to seek reelection so she can stay home.
But after three weeks, she realized that the “stay at home” life wasn’t for her. “I turned to my husband and said, ‘I’m going out of my brain. I can’t be home. I can’t do it,’” she recalls.
Her husband, who owned a storefront, suggested that Janet take the space, set up a business, and see how it goes.
“He loaned me some money and I did some research and I realized I wanted to find something that I like and I could sell easily,” she explained.
“I couldn’t do dresses, because I wouldn’t know how to do that. I couldn’t do men’s clothes, because I don’t know how to buy any of that. But socks are socks. They’re easy and everybody loves them and I love them.”
So, Janet set up the store and opened its doors on June 1st 2013. By Christmas, she had paid back her husband all the money she borrowed. The business was already showing a profit and they started looking to establish a second store not long after.
“This little hobby that I thought was going to be something to just keep me busy, turned into a business and it just kept growing. It’s kind of a ‘later in life’ success story, because I was already in my 50’s when I started this business. And it’s been pretty successful.”
She continued, “we do well every year, and every 18 months, I’ve opened another store. Unfortunately with COVID, there’s nothing going to happen this year. But every year I show a profit, every year we do well, every year we grow a little bit more.”
How they keep customers coming back
One of the reasons Floorplay Socks is so successful? The company focuses on its core product: socks.
“I really do try to stick with just socks,” says Janet.
“During COVID, we have brought in masks just to keep us afloat, but really I don’t deviate from socks. We don’t do T-shirts. We don’t do jewelry. We just sell socks.”
That strong product focus is paired with having superb in-store employees.
“My staff know everything there is to know about the socks they’re selling. Everybody is very educated in their product line,” adds Janet.
“One thing that I really enforce with my staff is that we give the best customer service, ever. I don’t believe customers are always right, but to their face, we make sure that they’re always happy. They walk out of the store with a great experience.”
“The greatest compliment I can get from a customer is when they walk in and go, ‘Oh my God, this place is so much fun.’”
“We strive to provide a shopping experience that you’re going to want to do again and again, just because you have so much fun in the store. There’s so much to look at. And every time you come in, there’s something new.”
The decisions that led to growth and profitability
When asked how Floorplay Socks was able to grow and become profitable really quickly, Janet mentioned two key reasons: product quality and high staff engagement.
First off, “I don’t sell discount, cheap socks. We sell quality socks for the person who really wants to feel comfortable in their feet. We sell stylish socks. Very few plain black or plain white socks do we even stock, because that’s not our customer.”
Secondly, says Janet, is the fact that they strive to provide the best customer service thanks to a highly engaged workforce.
“Me and my staff, we work as a team. I don’t consider myself their boss, but rather just the team leader. I have employees who have been with me for years now. So I think that says that it has to be a good place to work. None of my staff have ever made minimum wage. I’ve never paid anyone minimum wage. Plus once they get to 20 hours a week, they have full benefits, dental, prescription, eyeglasses — I pay 100% for them. Christmas, everyone gets a bonus. If stores do well, my staff do well.”
The challenges with running multiple locations
As a multi-store retail business, Janet makes sure that her stores stock items that are relevant to the communities and crowds that each location serves.
“Because each store is in a unique neighborhood, sometimes a sock that will sell well in one neighborhood will not sell in another neighborhood,” she explains.
“For example, I have a store at Yonge Street in Toronto and it’s a much more conservative crowd. So that’s the store where I would have some black socks. And yet my Distillery store, which — until this horrible time in our life — was 99% tourists. They really want Canadian themed socks.”
“A tourist who is out shopping isn’t looking for plain black socksto wear. He’s looking for the pair that says ‘I was in Canada and I bought you these socks.’ So each store, although we stock the same brands, sometimes we don’t necessarily stock the exact same product.”
Janet relies on data, market knowledge, and trends to figure out the right product mix for her stores. She says she also pays attention to customer and employee feedback.
“I rely on my customer’s requests, but I also rely on the staff in the store to tell me what they’re asking for that we don’t have.”
With the pandemic, for instance, Janet says that they’ve stocked more warm and snuggly socks for people working from home.
“We’re getting women and men saying, ‘I’m working at home. I don’t have to get dressed every day. What do you have that’s warm and snugly?’”
“So what we’ve done is bring in a little bit of extra warm and snugly items, and a little bit less dress socks, because people aren’t going to their office.”
She adds, “we strive to cater to what our customers are asking for.”
Floorplay Socks’ journey with Vend
Janet’s relationship with Vend had a rocky start, with Janet initially not being a fan of the software. But Vend won her over by listening and addressing her needs.
“The guys from New Zealand came here. We sat down in my boardroom one day and I basically said, ‘This is what’s wrong with it. This is what I need.’”
“And within one month they fixed everything. And now I just think it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever had. So you guys turned me around from really not being happy to being probably the happiest customer you have. I just think it’s great.”
On features and add-ons
Floorplay Socks is just one of the many retailers that are running and thriving with Vend. Check out all our customer stories or get in touch with us to learn how Vend can help you grow!
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.