Silver socks to swamp market

  • 2001-09-06
  • Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - Estonian hosiery manufacturer Suva is launching an eye-catching range of socks made partly from silver yarn this fall. Suva execs say they not only look good but the yarn prevents bacterial infection. The company is banking on the socks being a hit, particularly because of their sweat-prevention qualities.

"Those of our customers who know our products well are satisfied,"said Viktor Saarestik, owner of Suva. "But we now want to increase sales in Estonia."

The socks are new, but the technology for producing them has been around for three years, he added.

Suva also plans to start selling over the Internet and increase its access to the global market. It intends to start custom designing its socks to suit customers' tastes.

Andres Ergma, director of rival hosier Finnwear Estonia, was unworried by Suva's latest innovation. Recently, he said, demand has been so strong that Finnwear Estonia is looking for subcontractors. Finnwear, which belongs to German, Norwegian and English financial investors, recently acquired the Estonian textile manufacturer Marat.

Both companies say only 10 percent of their production is sold in Estonia, the rest going to Western Europe.

Suva was founded in 1919, when it was called Rauaniit (iron yarn). In the Soviet era the factory was named Punane Koit (red dawn) and produced hosiery for the whole of the Soviet Union. Then in 1991 it was renamed Suva (after "suka vabrik,"or hosiery factory) before being acquired in 1993 by Saarestik.

Suva sold 3 million pairs of socks last year, amounting to a turnover of 30 million kroons ($1.8 million).

Besides Suva and Finnwear, Estonia boasts five other sock manufacturers. But the market is also flooded with socks illegally imported from Poland and Lithuania, which cost about 10 kroons - a tenth of the price of socks imported from the most developed countries.