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CASE STUDY From giving away socks to homeless people from a backpack to a $235m-a-year ecommerce business

Bombas: helping the homeless one sock at a time

US ecommerce brand Bombas (Latin for ‘bumble bee’) started life as a bespoke sock maker, but a glimpse into the hidden problem of homelessness and some excellent sock design and the retailer is now expanding to the UK.

Founders David Heath and Randy Goldberg had their ‘lightbulb moment’ when they learned socks are the most requested clothing item in homeless shelters (underwear and t-shirts are second and third respectively).

As a result, the pair began giving out socks to homeless people from a backpack as they walked around NYC. Doing so made them realise the extent of the problem –  and how their efforts weren’t enough to meet the needs both in NYC and across their country. 

They spent the next two and a half years researching and working on the idea of building a business focused on producing a better version of an everyday item – socks – and a commitment to donate a pair for every pair purchased.

Central to their plan was giving the sock’s design a much overdue makeover. Innovations such as including a seamless toe and honeycomb arch support – together with improved comfort and functionality –  saw Bombas gain a reputation as the world’s best socks.

Eight years on, Bombas now employs more than 185 people, generates $235m in revenue (2020), sells more than 1,000 pairs of socks a day and has a 4% US market share by revenue and has become so successful some commentators predict it will soon become a billion-dollar brand.

And now they are coming to the UK. The UK socks market is worth an astounding  $1.3bn and the UK underwear sector $4.7bn. Bombas will be selling its socks from £13 and underwear between £18 and £25 per pair.

In the UK, Bombas will continue to run its One Item Purchased = One Item Donated model by partnering with the leading homelessness charity St. Mungo’s. The relationship will see its specially-designed socks get to those affected by homelessness and in need across local communities.

To date, Bombas has donated more than 50 million items through its Giving Partners; a mixture of shelters, no-profits, and organisations dedicated to helping homeless, in-need, and at-risk communities. In Q4 2020, it donated approximately 11 million items from its US e-commerce site alone.

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