By  on February 17, 1994

NEW YORK -- As in many other areas of fashion these days, legwear manufacturers are playing the exclusives game.

According to some vendors, the trend started about two years ago and has proven to be an effective strategy to help a store develop its own individual character and appeal.

In many ways, hosiery, more than many other categories, lends itself to development of exclusives, manufacturers say. It's a strategy that's particularly effective when giving consumers the opportunity to buy a popular designer label without spending a lot of money.

"As hosiery manufacturers, our job is easier," said Doug Bauer, vice president of sales at Giorgio Armani Calze Associates, the North American licensee for Armani legwear. "We're not reinventing the wheel. Hosiery is a low-ticket accessory that is easier to market than a high-fashion jacket."

Nevertheless, manufacturers pointed out, it still takes a major store to support an exclusive, because of the high minimum orders required. Howard Hyde, vice president of worldwide marketing at Pennaco Hosiery, noted, for example, that for an exclusive trouser sock, the minimum order is 150 dozen units, while for a pantyhose style it's 250 dozen.

Further, when a designer name is involved, the store needs to have an established association with that label.

"There is a true synergy that takes place between an exclusive designer product and an upscale store," said Debbie Hobbs, vice president of merchandising for Donna Karan Hosiery, a license held by Hanes Hosiery. "Most importantly, though, there has to be a reason for an exclusive to exist. For hosiery, the exclusive has to relate directly to the designer's ready-to-wear. Catalogs and related point-of-sale materials are crucial."

She noted that the company has developed special products for direct mailings for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, starting about two years ago.

"Exclusivity is a definite strategy we plan to continue with. It is entrenched in our marketing focus," said Janet Gerwich, executive vice president of women's merchandising at Neiman Marcus. "Although the concept is one we've used for a while now, we are much more aggressive now about marketing exclusives."

This spring, Neiman's is putting out a catalog featuring Giorgio Armani ready-to-wear and accessories including a special rayon and Tactel nylon knee-high style of hosiery.

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