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Mission-Driven Sock Brand Bombas Expands Outside US

Bombas is bringing its mission-driven socks overseas.

Just nine months after moving into underwear, the essentials brand expanded once more Wednesday—this time to the United Kingdom. Though the debut marks Bombas’ first in-market launch outside of the U.S., CEO and co-founder David Heath is already “looking forward to further expansion” in Europe and beyond.

“The U.K. brings a unique aspect that makes sense for us as a brand—we can build something foundational there, like we have here,” Heath told Sourcing Journal. “We’ve created a movement that is transferable and we believe, based on the climate of the U.K., the customers and the community will appreciate it.”

For now, Bombas is offering British consumers nearly 180 styles of adult socks, slippers and underwear. The curated selection encompasses the brand’s most popular styles from a cross-section of collections, as well as items the brand thinks “will best resonate with the U.K. consumer,” Heath said. With time, Bombas plans to build out the categories with a more robust product assortment, as well as expand to kids’ offerings and, “eventually,” T-shirts.

Bombas made its name supporting the homeless—it donated its 50 millionth item in August—so it’s no surprise that it has brought its one-for-one donation scheme across the Atlantic. To start, it will partner with St. Mungo’s, a homeless charity with national influence and local relationships. “This will allow us to better understand the needs of those affected by homelessness in the local community and get products on the hands—and feet—of those in need as quickly as possible,” Heath said.

To celebrate the partnership’s beginning, Bombas will donate 5,000 pairs of socks in October, followed by an additional 5,0000 later this year. It plans to learn about the local community first through St. Mungo’s before later expanding its network.

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Bombas began offering its first non-sock product line—T-shirts—in April 2019, roughly six years after it launched its original crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. When the pandemic arrived a year later, Heath said, the company’s direct-to-consumer model proved “a big advantage.” Able to be nimble in its customer communications and product position, Bombas could cater to consumers’ changing needs.

This January, the company introduced a third category—underwear. Two years in the making, the launch included briefs, trunks and boxer-briefs for men, and thong-, bikini- and hipster-style underwear for women. Heath said feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive.” Within the first month, it sold through more than half of its initial inventory—one and a half months faster than expected. That early success, Heath added, inspired Bombas to develop additional silhouettes, fabrications and colors for the future. After eight months of sales, the company has donated roughly 245,220 pairs of underwear to the homeless community, the CEO said.

Bombas arrives in Britain at a time that is “make or break” for many physical retailers, according to Lisa Hooker, leader of industry for consumer markets at PwC UK. A PwC report published last month found that 1,063 fashion stores and 120 department stores closed in the first half of the year. Though the Covid restrictions of early 2021 have since eased, the latter half of the year presents many potential stumbling blocks for struggling businesses, such as the reinstatement of business rates, the winding-down of furlough sand the need for agreement on rent arrears. However, the biggest factor in retail closures has been the shift to online, PwC’s report said, suggesting smoother waters for an online-first business like Bombas.