Supplier Spotlight: Embracing the Pivot


For businesses worldwide, 2020 will go down as the year of The Pivot. From home goods to restaurants, insurance to travel, all sectors have had to reposition themselves to meet their clients’ new and changing needs. For some, pivoting has meant providing the same product, but redesigning it for an at-home audience. For others, it’s meant assessing the totality of their resources to create something entirely new. Those companies who were able to nimbly reconfigure have led the way, proving that innovation can still inspire us—even under the wildest circumstances.

In Seattle, Strideline has gone beyond embracing the pivot: it’s leveraged its data, tech, and the strength of its team to find creative solutions for customers throughout the pandemic.

Meeting their customers’ needs in moments that matter.

Way back in March of 2020, Strideline—who was already known for its sublimating sock technology—identified the pressing need for masks before mandates were put in place. Through a combination of late nights and fresh thinking, the company’s skillset was reshaped to quickly provide lifesaving PPE for its customers. Strideline had another ace up its sleeve as well: The team was already able to do full-color imprints with PMS color matching, so brands were able to fulfill orders and quickly protect employees who engaged with the public.

That pivot also helped Strideline sidestep a void in projected retail orders. Sports licensed products (a big demand in any other year), found fewer buyers during covid. Fans were sunk into their couches, watching their favorite teams play in empty stadiums. There was no need for celebratory footware. People needed masks instead.

“I think we benefited from how fast we were able to move,” says Kaydee Walter, Marketing Specialist at Strideline. “We saw it coming, and we really quickly wanted to pivot to have that offering available to our distributors, because we knew that their clients’ needs would be changing.”

In ordinary times, a new product takes months to launch. Here, the company’s product development and operations teams Zoomed together for extensive, sprint-like sessions. They worked long days, crunching those months down to weeks—fast-tracking the timeline while building something entirely new. “It was cool that our expertise in sock sublimation was able to lend itself really well to sublimating masks,” says Walter. “Since then, we’ve made adjustments to those masks as well, creating adjustable ear toggles for size.”

Strideline leads by staying ahead of the curve.

As the pandemic continues, so has Strideline’s creative approach to new opportunities. Their latest innovation, the seasonal buyers’ program, leverages the company’s behind-the-scenes tech to create virtuals for their B2B distribution partners. Printed on Strideline’s readymade bases, these virtuals tie company branding to seasonality, so businesses can show appreciation for their employees—even while they’re stuck at home. Strideline is providing these virtual pitches for their distribution customers, who then have something fun and visual to share with their clients—fully-designed seasonal socks, branded in their company logo and colors.

So, how does it work? At Strideline, it begins with a partnership. Their team connects with their distribution clients to identify which of their existing and prospective customers have a need for proactive virtuals. “We do the virtuals without needing any artwork,” explains Walter, “so all we need is a logo. And we can have those ready within a day for distributors to send out to their clients, so it really is something where, whether the distributor had been thinking about the upcoming holiday or not, the companies are always looking for ways to engage their employees and show appreciation.”

Getting something as simple as Earth Day socks from your employer may not seem like a huge investment, but it keeps teams connected, engaged, and feeling seen. And in a year where holidays, birthdays, and other reasons to gather have faded to the background, those little acts of celebration carry more weight. Walter, and everyone else at Strideline, seem to enjoy being part of those thoughtful exchanges. “Maybe the employees weren’t even thinking of a coming holiday themselves, then they get this offering and say, ‘Wow. They were thinking of me and remember that I’m still stuck at home.’ …And realistically, everyone wears socks when they’re stuck at home.”

In this unprecedented era, it’s fascinating how much one sock company has been able to rethink their business’s angles—especially with all employees collaborating remotely. And guess what else? They’re not done.

Here, in the thick of it all, Strideline continues to grow and innovate as a company. Their most pressing goal? Sustainability.  

Gearing up for a greener future.

“We have a sock with recycled yarns in the works,” says Walter. “We’ve been excited about this for a really long time.” And while this initiative starts with one item—a sock developed out of recycled material—that’s not where it ends.

 “We’re working our way toward sustainability as a company in general, but also understanding that there’s an immediate need in the promo space for those clients searching for a sustainable option to offer their customers. So, we are in the works of developing a sock that has more of that focus for its use case, but we are also examining packaging—both in the individual packaging we have, as well as shipping labels. It’s been a huge shift for us right now and a big focus for us; evaluating and examining current practices as well as looking at that new sock introduction.”

Creating new PPE to protect individuals and generate fresh revenue. Introducing a seasonal buyers program and tackling the intricacies that go along with growing it. And now, rethinking sustainability in an end-to-end fashion—all within a year while working over Zoom?

Strideline has found a way to pivot and leap forward at the same time. Now that’s innovation.

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