OFF-PRICERS PLAY NAME GAME

Byline: ROSEMARY FEITELBERG

NEW YORK--Off-price stores are managing to turn up the heat on hosiery manufacturers and retailers as they struggle to maintain price points.
A recent tour of three major off-pricers here--Daffy's, Filene's Basement and Century 21--revealed a wide range of brand name legwear. Key factors included:
l Discontinued and irregular designer and brand names well represented in basic classifications.
l Prices that were often between 30 and 66 percent lower than suggested retail price.
l Displays resembling those in department stores and systemized by brand, size and color.
Some sales floors at the off-pricers were messy, but inventories appeared fairly complete and in order.
Finding salespeople for assistance was a problem: When they were on the floor, they were more often talking among themselves, rather than aiding customers. Shoppers were left to answer each other's questions about style and fit.
Marked 30 percent and 50 percent lower than the suggested retail price, most brand and designer name hosiery was available for under $4. At Century 21, Donna Karan's matte heather pantyhose, which carried a suggested retail price of $17 and was marked as a discontinued item, sold for $8. It was the highest-priced legwear item in the three stores WWD visited. At all three stores, several shoppers commented on the value of the prices, as well as the selection.
While each store had a wide selection of basic styles of casual and dress socks, novelty items--such as Donna Karan's $3 ribbed knee-highs, suggested retail of $6, at Century 21, and Nicole Miller's $4 anklets, with a suggested retail of $10, at Daffy's--rounded out their offerings. Unlike the pantyhose, which in some places were pulled out of their packaging, the socks were neatly displayed against walls or placed on freestanding fixtures.
Although Daffy's alone offered its own store name private label in pantyhose, Filene's Basement and Century 21 each carry about a dozen brands, including Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Hanes, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Anne Klein, Jockey for Her, Evan-Picone, Burlington and Round the Clock.
A good portion of the merchandise consisted of discontinued and irregular styles. One exception was Century 21's well-stocked offering of Hanes pantyhose, which is regular merchandise sold at the suggested retail price. In addition to its hosiery department, Century 21 offers irregular items in a separate area where prices are up to 80 percent below the suggested retail price.
Daffy's does not accept any hosiery returns, but the other stores do. With a receipt, Filene's Basement accepts returns within 30 days of purchase. Century 21 offers an even exchange for merchandise returned within 12 days of purchase, provided the hosiery is undamaged.
The following is a closer look of what each store had to offer.

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