He was just a few practice runs away from the New York Marathon when Caspar Disselhoff suffered an injury in 2012. The advice: support stockings. Unable to find functional socks that weren’t complete fashion failures, Caspar decided to make them himself. Together with his father, a vascular surgeon specialising in varicose veins, he developed STOX Energy Socks: comfortable compression stockings with stylish designs.
Socks from the heart of the coronavirus
STOX quickly grew into one of the major suppliers of compression stockings. For their walking collection, the retailer collaborated with the Royal Dutch Walking Society (Koninklijke Wandelbond). Caspar: “We currently serve the entire European market and are on our way to becoming a global brand.”
The first news reports from northern Italy were a bit hard to swallow because the STOX factory is right in the heart of the coronavirus outbreak there. “We contacted them immediately. They told us that the surrounding area would be locked down soon but in terms of location we seemed to be missing the worst of it. Two weeks later it was our turn. Now production is at a standstill. That’s difficult, but we have a large stock. Last year we bought a ton of stock, a blessing in disguise. We might have some difficulty with new retail clients, but we can keep going for the time being.”
In control during the crisis
Immediately after the first government measures were introduced, Caspar saw their turnover decline. That was accompanied by declining performance in marketing campaigns, especially on social media. “So much so in fact that we immediately turned off the tap”, Caspar recalls. “Our first goal was to create a sense of calm. To stay in control, we wanted to gain insight into the expected cash burn rate and cash flow. We looked at all our budgeted costs and worked out various scenarios. Suppose this situation lasts six months or even longer? Which expenses should we cut? We cancelled shoots and advertising. Meanwhile, we also had to update our messaging. We tested how we could best adapt our communication to all the crisis-related developments. The result was a significant improvement.”
That same week, our customers got a newsletter in their mailbox. “We informed our community from the very start. The update was mainly a confirmation: all our products are still available and we can deliver as normal with the same delivery times. Even if nothing changes for consumers, they want to know that. That confirmation is extremely important for your conversion.”
Donating to healthcare personnel
It’s a stroke of luck that STOX operates in the healthcare field. One the one hand, a large part of the Dutch population is now moving a little less and, on the other hand, healthcare personnel are working nonstop. “In both cases, our socks offer a solution. They not only reduce the burden of tired or heavy legs – especially useful for people who stand for long periods – but they also help combat insomnia, mood swings and loss of concentration. These are important advantages in this difficult time.”
It’s important to get enough exercise. That’s why they developed the STOX 10K Challenge for people who are staying home: it encourages sock wearers to take 10,000 steps a day (about 7 km) for a month.
A different initiative was launched for healthcare. “The promotion was ‘buy two pair of socks’ and we will donate one to hospital staff. Ultimately, we were able to give them to staff in ten hospitals. We still had a nice white collection available, which perfectly fit into those surroundings. The promotion also produced attractive content. The reactions were overwhelming.”
Now that public life has almost come to a standstill, Caspar notes how important it is to work with reliable partners. “We have transferred our logistics to PostNL Fulfillment. They’re very busy there now but, apart from a slight delay, everything is running smoothly. I spoke briefly to our account manager at Mollie, who contacted me to offer advice. That’s great. I’ve been using Mollie for a long time and I’m very satisfied, precisely because nothing ever goes wrong. That’s even more valuable now.”
The most noticeable change remains working from home. Caspar: “Actually, it’s good to do. We employ eight people and keep each other informed with daily team calls. And, coincidentally, we recently switched to a new security system that also gives everyone the proper access remotely. That makes it easy. Now that sales are on the rise again, we can move forward carefully.”