NEW YORK -- This fall, legwear makers are seeing some good action in the home arena, but don't expect vases and picture frames to pop up in showrooms during the March market.
Vendors said that in recent months, the demand for slipper socks -- those knitted, heavy-gage socks for lounging around at home -- has risen dramatically, as people seek comfort and are spending more time at home.
"The retailer's response to slipper socks was great after holiday," said Susan Reese, vice president of sales at Soxland International. "They are already popular at retail because they are a trend that ties into being home and comfortable and not about putting tight pantyhose on and going out."
Turi Galbraith, vice president of sales at K. Bell, agreed: "Not that you will wear slipper socks for a dinner party, but there is something more comfortable about slipper socks than the traditional slipper."
Traditionally, slippers were sold in shoe departments, but in recent years, many department stores moved the classification to the main floor to, or adjacent to, legwear departments.
For many, the slipper sock is a new classification bridging socks and slippers.
"People think of slippers as something for old ladies," said Caron Schillinger, Biella's marketing director. "If you take a look at department stores, there are fancy slippers people wear to go out in or the juvenile, crazy-animal, fluffy slippers, which are clumsy. Women in their 30s and 40s don't want those. They want to wear something cushy and comfortable."
"It's cheep and cheerful and will make you smile, and its comfortable and warm," said Barbara Russillo, president at Legale Legwear, which will be stepping up its slipper sock assortment from 25 to 40 styles for market.
Styles will include lime green, orange, fuchsia and turquoise, plush knits in specialty yarns such as angora, micro-chenille and animal patterns such as frogs.
Many agreed that since slippers have hard rubber soles, they are more difficult to wash and take care of. Slipper socks, meanwhile, are often made of mohair, cotton, nylon and spandex which makes them easy to wash. Biella offers mohair slipper socks at $26 retail and chunky wool socks at $15 retail.ETC Hosiery, meanwhile, offers slipper socks with nonskid features on the sole in patterns such as flowers, hearts, dots and stripes, and sell-throughs for last fall's styles were between 75 and 100 percent, according to Robert Sussman, president. "People are starting to figure out that these are really cool," Sussman said. "Instead of walking around with socks on, you can now wear slippers and socks at the same time."
Sussman is projecting the slipper sock business to grow from 2 to 10 percent of the total assortment this year. The company is stepping up its slipper sock assortment from eight to 30 styles this market. Styles will include comb cotton spandex ribs, clouds, flowers and stars in such colors as black, white, purple and cream. Wholesale price points range from $1.75 to $3 a pair with June and July delivery.
Bell launched a capsule collection of 10 styles of slipper socks during the January market. These featured heavy gauge socks with such novelty details as flower motifs, pompom drawstrings, buttons or animal motifs with added floppy ears, and retail prices between $8 and $12.
Many agreed that the item is also suitable for holiday, and many buyers are planning to put them on floors then.
"The slipper sock category has opened up new dollars for the sock department this coming year," Reese at Soxland said. "And all buyers are always looking to get bigger budgets and this was a great vehicle to do that. Since they are planning flat in sheers, this is a bright spot for the departments."
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