By  on September 19, 1994

NEW YORK -- Retailers are flexing an unusual amount of advertising muscle to maximize the booming consumer demand for casual and fashion looks in legwear this fall.

Such items as thigh-highs, over-the knees and knee-highs are being spotlighted at regular prices in a series of large newspaper ads, as well as in catalogs and other mailing pieces. Sheers, which have been a problem area, are sharing the upbeat atmosphere.

The extent of these promotions is atypical for hosiery, where advertising is generally reserved for line introductions and off-price sales, retailers pointed out.

In some cases, the early demand for the expansive new offerings in casual legwear inspired the stores to do the advertising, and the efforts are paying off.

Hosiery sales increased "tremendously" after Boston-based Filene's featured Hue's $12 thigh-highs, CK Calvin Klein's $18 over-the-knee styles and 16 other fashion items by Kenneth Cole, Liz Claiborne and DKNY in a full-page ad in the Boston Globe, according to Phyllis Johansen, vice president of creative merchandising. Fall hosiery sales to date have already doubled last fall's total volume, she said.

In the past four weeks, Filene's has sold 60 percent of its tights, thigh-highs and socks, she said. The chain has increased its fashion legwear offerings from 11 stores to more than 22.

"We've never seen anything like it. When we ran the ad, we didn't know if our customer in Boston would understand it," she said. "For a brand-new business, it's very exciting."

In the next few weeks, the company will feature $7 Givenchy Bodygleamers in ads in the Boston Globe and the Hartford Courant.

Designed to highlight key fashion looks, such advertising has not been done previously for hosiery, Johansen said.

"The customer hasn't seen novelty items in legwear in a long time," she said. "But it's not something she has to see in 500 magazines to know she needs to have."

In July, Saks Fifth Avenue highlighted its private label cotton thigh-highs and over-the-knee styles in an ad in the New York Times. Since then, the company has featured similar styles by Ralph Lauren and DKNY in its fall Folio catalog as well as in a full-page ad in mid-August in the Times.

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