By  on November 10, 2008

After a three-year surge, legwear is managing to maintain steady sales even as consumer spending plummets.

Overall, legwear is up 0.4 percent this year to $3.24 billion in the U.S., according to consumer research firm NPD Group. Retailers and manufacturers have positive expectations for the category moving into the important holiday season.

“Fall has been late to open, but it is opening very nicely now,” said Edward Miccinati, design director for StockinGirl. “We’re continuing to sell wool tights, sweater knits and over-the-knee socks, but the real strength of our business lies in our merino and cashmere programs.”

Looking at holiday selling, Miccinati expects sheers to fare well for cocktail-themed events.

“We’re looking at pretty thigh-highs, open-work tights, pantyhose with back seams,” Miccinati said. “It’s a little bit on the dressier and sexier side.”

Tony Taylor, designer of the Brooklyn-based Look From London, said his business has been strong in the last year and he expects the fourth quarter to follow suit.

“For holiday, we’re still doing a lot of metallics, which we always do, as well as lace and crocheted styles in footed and footless,” Taylor said. “We’re doing some lacy top-ankle socks, as well as leggings with zippers on them.”

Zippered leggings are also performing well at Henri Bendel, specifically those from Lindsay Lohan’s new leggings line, 6126. The star recently introduced the collection at the specialty store to a swarm of screaming fans.

“The line has been amazing for us and a great experience overall,” said Scott Schramm, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of fashion at Bendel’s. “I think it will continue to be strong through the holidays and I’m feeling pretty good about it into first quarter. Leggings as a category is still really strong.”

Other key trends Schramm cited were leopard and cheetah prints, as well as jodhpur-inspired styles with knee patching.

Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president and fashion director at Lord & Taylor, attributed this season’s hottest legwear trends to color.

“Certainly the highlight of the season continues to be tights,” Olexa said. “Sales began to increase in September and have continued an upward trend. Colors have gained momentum this season — blues, purples and berries — with black and gray important in textures. Both sweater knits and cottons are performing well.”

Wayne Lederman, president of Leg Resource, which manufactures hosiery for Nicole Miller, Betsey Johnson and Anne Klein, said his sales were not stellar, but solid, and he remains optimistic for holiday and beyond.

“This would have been a bonanza year for legwear,” Lederman said. “The economic conditions have left retailers holding back on funding the business the way they’d like to. But the forecast for next year seems to be strong towards legwear.”

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