SHOPPERS: LOTS OF LEARNING TO DO

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK--As the National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers moves forward on its program to educate consumers about hosiery, it's clear there's work to be done.
That's the conclusion drawn from a random sidewalk poll of shoppers here. While some women were precise about their hosiery preferences, others demonstrated little knowledge of an item they buy frequently.
Last fall, the NAHM formed a 15-member steering committee to get retailers involved with a national educational campaign via distribution of literature and other point-of-sale materials. Lauren Hutton was named as an industry spokesman, and a video news release with Hutton was sent out nationally on March 21 showing the role hosiery plays in new spring fashions, according to an NAHM spokeswoman. The committee is working with retailers to develop a retail component for the campaign, and a study on consumer and retailer attitudes on hosiery is due out soon. A new consumer educational booklet is in the process of being written.
Meanwhile, the women surveyed by WWD generally indicated that buying hosiery was almost a reflex action or simply a habit, with price determining where the hosiery is bought and need the motivating factor. The average American woman purchases at least 15 pairs of pantyhose a year, according to the NAHM. Yet several of the women surveyed had problems naming their favorite brand or style, until prompted by friends or a reporter.
The question, "What's your favorite brand of hosiery?" caused them to pause for a few moments. "I don't know, I don't know. What is the name?" was a common response. Several women said they recognize their brand by the color of its packaging or its placement in the department.
The women--surveyed around town in such areas as Herald Square and Union Square--had more definitive answers when asked how much they spend for hosiery. Here's what they had to say.
Sharon Gonzales, 38, a sales executive in publishing, said she spends $100 each month for legwear at A&S or in drugstores, typically not more than $10 per pair.
Even Gonzales, however, who purchases far more pantyhose than anyone else interviewed in this spot check, was unable to recall her favorite brands until a friend suggested some labels. Then she said she buys sheers from Hanes and No Nonsense and leggings and tights from several other brands whose names she couldn't recall.
"I'm always buying sheers. They run and I get a lot of holes in them," she said. "I wear a lot of different suits and skirts. I like to change my look a lot."
Connie Ball, 44, a sales executive for an apparel firm, said she spends $15 each month for light support sheers at Duane Reade drugstores, crew socks at Jack's 99 Cent Store and tights at Conway.
"I don't buy any particular brand every month," she said. "It's like five-pocket jeans. The same factory that makes them for Kmart makes them for designers."
Ball said she is spending less on all apparel compared with last year because she is trying to save money.
"Now I'll look in Jack's 99 Cent Store before I'll go to Daffy's," she said.
Winnie Ng, 17, sales clerk, said she spends $15 each month at A&S or other department stores, as well as the off-price store Century 21.
She said she usually saves $2 by buying a pair of pantyhose or tights at Century 21 as opposed to A&S.
After thinking for a minute or two and hearing a few brand names, she said she usually buys Hanes products, but did not know which kind.
Natsuko Utsumi, 40, a freelance journalist, said she buys Donna Karan's ultrasheer pantyhose at Saks Fifth Avenue and unbranded everyday sheers at Woolworth's. During the summer, Utsumi prefers not to wear any hosiery, she said. In addition to spending $360 annually for hosiery in the U.S., she said she gets 30 pairs of hosiery each year from Japan. Utsumi purchases hosiery during annual trips to Japan and relatives in Japan regularly send her hosiery, she said. Japanese hosiery is more durable than American brands, she added.
Amelia Silver, 32, a bank vice president, said she spends $20 monthly for hosiery. She said she buys her hosiery at Saks, Calvin Klein's factory outlet and through Hanes's direct mail catalog.
"I spend less on standard everyday hose," she said. "I'll spend more money for microfiber--anything that lasts longer. I like the feel of microfiber even though I don't know what microfiber is."
Silver said that last year she stopped wearing pantyhose to work during the summer, since her company relaxed its dress codes.
"When I started working at the bank in '84, women never went to work without pantyhose. You never wore anything sleeveless. Everyone wore suits," she said. "Now that's changed."
India Martin, 26, a sales clerk, said she wears Donna Karan's sheer opaques in winter and summer. Her $40 monthly hosiery budget is spent at Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy's, she said.
"Sometimes I'll make a special trip to the store to buy hosiery," she noted. "I usually buy it when I'm there buying makeup or something else."
Attorney Deborah Kramm said she typically spends $50 each month for Donna Karan and Fogal hosiery. She said she purchases hosiery at Bergdorf Goodman and at Saks Fifth Avenue.
"I've been wearing the same style of black Donna Karan hosiery for years," she said. "Replacing them depends on how quickly I run them."
Having bought several pairs of Fogal's lace top pantyhose last year, Kramm said she has not needed to replace them since she does not wear them often.
With a monthly hosiery budget of $10, author Susan Wiggs, 36, of Bainbridge Island, Wash., said she buys $1 unbranded control-top sheers at Target, Wal-Mart and grocery stores. "I'm in town to see my publisher," she said. "This is the first time I've been dressed up in six months."
Wiggs, a runner, said she prefers to buy men's athletic socks--"but not tube socks" --because there is more cushioning on the soles and heels. Men's socks retail in most mass market stores for $1, she said.Stacy Bennett, a 28-year-old secretary, could not name her favorite hosiery brand. She said she generally purchases three pairs of sheer pantyhose each week at grocery stores or delicatessens. Whenever possible, she buys five-pair multipacks of nonbranded sheers to save money.
Bennett, who has worn sheers daily since she was 18, said she rarely wears socks.
"I prefer to wear pantyhose. They're dressier," she said.
Janice Kuznir, 43, of Manhattan, said she has always favored opaque tights "even when they weren't fashionable." She said she usually buys six pairs of designer tights annually, with DKNY one of her favorite brands. Kuznir said she makes her selections in department stores, based on durability and fashion colors, not price. "I usually have to replace black because I wear it more often than any other color," she said. During warmer months, Kuznir said she wears long skirts to avoid wearing any hosiery.

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