Richard P. Ross
Mirman said "People should be able to buy socks and stockings as easily as they buy newspapers". She envisioned small shops that only sold women's tights, stockings, and socks. With this in mind, Sock Shop outlets were placed for convenience on busy city streets, in train stations, subway stations and at airports. They were small, between 400 and 1,200 square feet (110 m2), and had no visible doors, which drew passers-by (as many as 1000 a day) into the store. Their stock featured bold colours, dramatic patterns and novelty designs in hundreds of styles. Prices were considered moderate at £0.99 to £24.99 per pair in 1987, with the priciest designs including gold-lace tights.
Sophie Mirman is the daughter of the famous milliner Simone Mirman. She started out as a junior secretary at Marks & Spencer before applying for the company's management training program. She then became a manager for the Marks & Spencer food department. In 1981, Mirman and her future husband Richard P. Ross became retail directors for a new speciality retailer, Tie Rack, which sold neckwear and accessories for men. They left in 1983 to launch Sock Shop.
Mirman felt her customers would prefer to buy stylish hosiery without hunting through department stores, which at the time, dominated the British hosiery market. Due to a lack of willing investors, Mirman and Ross eventually launched Sock Shop with the assistance of a Government loan guarantee programme for capital-short entrepreneurs. The first Sock Shop was on the concourse of the Knightsbridge tube station. Their ambitions were modest, with expectations of eventually having four or perhaps six retail outlets. By 1987, there were 52 stores in the Sock Shop chain and it was one of the fastest growing speciality retailing businesses in Europe. Mirman had become the 188th richest person in Britain, and its youngest millionaire. They were held up as examples of Britain's new entrepreneurial flair in the 1980s.
In November 1987, Sock Shop (recently renamed as a company to Sock Shop International P.L.C) opened three stores in Manhattan, aiming (as in London) towards walk-by traffic. One of these outlets was at the 42nd Street entrance to Grand Central Station, the same principle as behind the first British store's placement.
A couple of years later, when recession struck, Mirman and Ross discovered that their equity (worth £50 million in 1988) had become valueless, and they were overwhelmed by debts. In 1990, they entered administration and BDO Binder Hamlyn took over. 58 shops, including 17 US outlets (14 in New York alone) were closed down, and discussions were entered with interested parties to try and get new funding capital for financing expansion in Europe. Despite the closures, the administrators recommended Mirman be retained in a key role, praising her business acumen.
In August 1990 the business, 85 shops, and the French subsidiary were purchased for £3.25 million (plus an injection of £3.75 million working capital) by a consortium backed by a Scottish fund manager, Murray Johnstone. The company was renamed Sock Shop Holdings. Unsecured creditors and shareholders in Sock Shop International received no money from the sale. The chairman for Murray Johnstone Developments, Fred Dalgarno, blamed the expense of the US operation and over-expansion for Sock Shop's problems. Having shed the burden of their debts, it was planned that Sock Shop Holdings be expanded more cautiously.
Sock Shop Holdings fell back into the administrator's hands a second time after becoming part of the Facia Group, a retail conglomerate of 850 shops and 80,000 employees that collapsed in 1996 with debts of £70m due to the fraudulent actions of its owner, Stephen Hinchliffe. It was subsequently acquired by the Tulchan Group.
In 2003, Sock Shop (by then reduced to 13 stores across the UK) was bought for £3.9 million by the Birmingham-based firm of Harris Watson Holdings. The firm collapsed a third time in 2006. The administrators, Poppleton & Appleby, were brought in on 25 January 2006 to try and salvage the dramatically reduced company. This third collapse was attributed to substantial losses as a result of a slowdown in consumer spending and a rise in running costs. In February 2006 following administration it was bought by Osan Ltd which is a subsidiary of Ruia Group
Current (2006 onwards)
Following the 2006 purchase, Sock Shop has become primarily an internet retailer. It has a corporate network in the UK and franchised operations include Cyprus, Greece, Iceland, Lebanon, Jordan, Malta, Kuwait and Portugal. A few stores remain across the United Kingdom.
The online store, Sock Shop Online, was launched in late 2004. It continues to retail a number of brands. As of February 2009, there are 26 individual hosiery brands (including Sock Shop's own) being sold through the website.
The official name of Sock Shop is Drew Brady & Co Limited T/A SockShop. Drew Brady & Co Limited also own another online shop called elinens.co.uk
New Retail Shop August 2009
SockShop has been relaunched, opening its first retail store at Terminal 1 in Manchester Airport in August 2009, while under ownership of the Ruia Group. The shop sells various colourful socks and hosiery including the brands which they run online as well as specialist socks such as flight socks and gentle ankle grip socks which do not leave marks on your legs.
- Lohr, Steve, A "Silly" Sock Idea Makes Millions, for The New York Times, November 23, 1987
- O'Sullivan, Jack, Going to the dogs (and other ways to survive a recession), for The Independent, August 21, 1998
- Butler, Sarah, Sock Shop Looks for New Capital in Drapers, January 20, 1990
- Sophie Mirman May Play Key Role In Sock Shop Rescue Package, Drapers, June 2, 1990
- Butler, Sarah, Sock Shop's Future Plans Revealed Following Consortium Acquisition in Drapers, August 11, 1990
- Tycoon jailed after "lenient" sentence BBC News Online, 16 July 2003
- Butler, Sarah, Buyer sought for Sock Shop as it collapses for third time in The Times January 26, 2006