In the first of our “Meet The Manufacturers” Series we talk with Evan McGill, National Sales Manager for Knit-Rite, Inc. Knit-Rite owns some of the better known brands in the compression hosiery industry such as Therafirm, SmartKnit, EASE, and Core-Spun, sold on BrightLifeDirect.com, plus Preggers and GoGo sold on BrightLifeGo.com. When BrightLife Direct was founded in 1999, Therafirm was the first and only brand that we sold. Both companies have enjoyed rapid growth in the following 15 years.
When and where did the company begin?
Knit-Rite opened in 1923 in Kansas City, KS, where our corporate headquarters is still based. Knit-Rite was founded by a WWI amputee manufacturing prosthetic socks for amputees. Knit-Rite purchased THERAFIRM in September 2000.
How many people work at Knit Rite?
Right now we employ about 170 people. About half of them work in Kansas City, KS and half work at our THERAFIRM plant in Hamlet, NC. We also have 4 field based sales reps.
Where are your products manufactured?
Our Knit-Rite orthotic and prosthetic products are manufactured in Kansas City, KS and our THERAFIRM compression products are manufactured in Hamlet, NC. Yes, our products are 100% made in the USA!
What’s your best selling product?
Core-Spun has built the biggest notoriety for the company. This is available in a knee high and now a thigh high as well. Many individuals struggle with putting their support hosiery on every day. Core-Spun, a patented innovation by THERAFIRM, solves this issue with the use of stretchy Core-Spun yarns for a sock that is ultra stretchy and therefore easier to put on. Core-Spun yarns are made by twisting fibers around an inner fiber, creating one yarn. This process is used to enhance stretch comfort, strength, and durability. Core-Spun consists of spandex as the “core yarn” with polyester yarns as the “sheath” of twisted yarns around the core. The result is a support sock that is ultra stretchy, easier to put on, and more comfortable to wear. This product is VERY popular!
What’s your hottest new product?
EASE is our hottest new product and we have received great feedback from patients thus far. EASE is a premium opaque gradient compression line that complements the patented Core-Spun compression socks—both engineered using ultra stretchy yarns for compression garments that are easier to put on and more comfortable to wear. It is made of high stretch, moisture wicking CoolMax fibers and provides dry comfortable coolness. It delivers lab tested true gradient compression to promote better blood flow, prevent mild to moderate swelling, and relieve tired, achy legs and feet.
Besides compression stockings, what else does Knit Rite make?
Knit-Rite’s core business is manufacturing textiles for the orthotic and prosthetic community, which is artificial limbs and braces. We more or less make any textile that could fall into that category including prosthetic socks, shrinkers, various product interfaces, etc.
Has Knit Rite ever made a product that bombed?
Of course not! We’re perfect! 🙂 In all seriousness, we initially launched Core-Spun with one sizing chart, but made adjustments to it after its launch to better fit the modern day population. Ankle to calf ratio is so important to properly fitting a compression product, so those adjustments were made to accommodate that.
Have you noticed any trends in compression stocking colors?
People want compression to look like any other sock, tight, etc. they would wear. As a society, we are very fashionable and enjoy fashionable colors. With that said, we are seeing trends for various colors outside the normal black, beige, etc.. Our THERAFIRM Light line (10-15mmHg) comes out with seasonal colors 2 times per year. Right now, we have THERAFIRM Light opaque footless tights available in a handful of seasonal colors including Boho Pink and Geranium for Summer 2014!
For athletic wear, what do you sell more of – socks or sleeves?
We actually sell more socks. We make our Core-Sport line in socks, leg sleeves AND arm sleeves. Athletic socks are ideal for your runner and biker. For someone who does triathlons, they tend to prefer leg sleeves because they can wear them during the swim, bike and run portions. Core-Sport has Core-Spun yarns in them, so it will dry quickly, making it ideal for any type of athlete during performance or during recovery.
You travel a lot as a sales manager, what’s your favorite travel sock?
For me, I prefer Core-Spun the most. I wear dress shoes almost daily, so not only is that sock easy to get on and comfortable to wear, but its very comfortable for me in dress shoes. It’s not too thick and not too thin, so it works well for me.
What’s the biggest hurdle or obstacle to getting someone to try compression socks for the first time?
The misconception amongst many people is that compression socks are ugly, hot, hard to get on, and not fashionable. Compression has very much evolved over the years. Products like Core-Spun and EASE are easy to get on, are comfortable to wear and are offered in a wide array of colors. Once someone, whether it’s someone who needs compression for medical reasons OR someone who just wants to energize their legs, understands the benefits of compression and gets the standards “myths” debunked, they are usually very open to trying it and making their legs feel better.