BLACKSOCKS SA: Even the most innovative business model must constantly reinvent itself

With BLACKSOCKS SA, Samy Liechti launched the first subscription model and is consequently a pioneer of e-commerce. The company is conscious of the rapidly changing times and adjusts to them. The current goal is to bring customer intimacy and digitization together.

The e-commerce pioneer Samy Liechti has headed up BLACKSOCKS since the beginning.
The e-commerce pioneer Samy Liechti has headed up BLACKSOCKS since the beginning.

What role does export play in your strategy?

Export is becoming increasingly important. By now about 40% of our socks, underwear and shirts are going overseas. Despite the difficult currency environment, we have grown in recent years; this was purely thanks to exports. Last year, the USA and Germany - our strongest export markets - also grew.

What is your business model?

We use internet technology to simplify the interface between men and socks. We created the sock subscription and with that, the world’s first internet subscription model; since then, many have followed our lead.

What customer requirements does your company meet?

Men want quality products and are willing to pay for them. But convenience is also important to them. This is exactly what we offer for socks and men's underwear. In addition, our products are available over long periods of time, so that men don’t have to repeatedly decide what to buy.

How do you orient your business model to these customer requirements?

Since we distribute our products directly to end customers, we are in contact with them every day. We learn a lot about their concerns and needs through this. The challenge here is to filter this information, and then to abstract it. We additionally have a lot of behavioral data from customers, which we regularly and systematically evaluate. This is how we use information and data to create knowledge about our customers; we use this to further develop our business model.

Have you ever had to discontinue an export project? If yes, why? What have you learned from this?

We have never canceled an export project, since we export small quantities – usually 3 to 10 pairs of socks at a time. In the last 5 years, however, we have had to completely change the procedure several times, especially for the EU, as customer orders regularly got stuck at customs.

Which global trends most influence you in the alignment of your business model?

We’ve been entirely digital since 1999. So we’ve seen many trends come and go. We are currently dealing with the ‘casualization’ of the businessman, i.e. the trend towards looser or less formal clothing. Another trend is, of course, digitalization.

How does digital transformation impact on the customer?

Let me give you a current example. At the end of April, we are launching an order button, which we call the MORE Button. With a double click of the button, our customers can order more of the same without check-out. Those who don’t want a physical button can use a virtual button in the app or on the webpage. We are reacting here to the trend of moving away from desktop computers, and towards mobile devices and networking in the home.

What impact does digital transformation have on overall operations, whether in terms of recruiting, demands on existing personnel or data analysis?

In recent years, the average age of our employees has certainly fallen by 10 years. I am now the only one who grew up without a computer, internet and mobile phone.

Which issue will most occupy your company in 2018?

How do we manage, despite digitization and customers in 127 countries, not lose our contact to the customer, and how can we remain relevant after 18 years, day in, day out?



Permanent liberation from sock worries – with this thought, Samy Liechti, founder of BLACKSOCKS and inventor of the sock subscription, revolutionized the e-commerce business 18 years ago. Today, BLACKSOCKS supplies more than 150,000 customers in 127 countries around the world with sock classics such as calf socks and knee socks, as well as men's basics such as shirts, T-shirts and underpants. The subscriber gets the designs of his choice delivered directly to his door; convenient and contemporary. And like all socks from BLACKSOCKS, the colorful Funky Socks are also produced in a traditional Italian sock factory.

About Samy Liechti

In 1999, Samy Liechti founded BLACKSOCKS with his then-business partner Marcel Roth to launch the sock subscription. The business manager has been running the company since the beginning. Liechti is an internet pioneer and can look back on 18 years of e-commerce experience.

“Exporter demain!” at EPFL in Lausanne on September 28, 2017

How Swiss exporters can use innovative business models to stay competitive will be at the heart of the discussions at “Exporter demain! 2017.” Don’t miss this opportunity to meet with the export community in Romandie, the French speaking part of Switzerland. Find out more and register.

See our dossier on new business models: articles, studies and videos.


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