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Sock It To ’Em

Price, price, price. Home to quick pick-me-ups that don’t break the bank, the sock department has in recent years become the place to find an overwhelming amount of bargain offers.<br><br>Whether it’s multiple packs, three-for-$12 or...

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Three-for pricing is dominating the sock market. Sign depicting the pricing strategy for socks and knee-highs by Nine West.

WWD Staff

Price, price, price. Home to quick pick-me-ups that don’t break the bank, the sock department has in recent years become the place to find an overwhelming amount of bargain offers.

Whether it’s multiple packs, three-for-$12 or three-for-$15 deals, roaming legwear departments these days is like the pick-and-mix candy counter at the local multiplex movie theater.

“There’s always a deal,” said Jordan Lipson, president and chief executive officer of American Essentials. “The consumer loves the idea of buying three socks for one price, and retailers are looking for a return on investment and to enhance their sales per square foot. The higher the out-the-floor ticket price, the better the sale per square foot.”

The idea is simple: a single pair of socks may retail for $6, but three purchased together will cost $15 — a savings of $3 or $1 a pair of socks. Some items — slipper socks, luxury fibers, for instance — are still exempt from the pricing strategy, but most vendors have embraced multiple pricing. After all, if you can’t beat them, join them.

For fall, The Hot Sox Co. will be launching a new pricing strategy by splitting its Hot Sox offering into black and silver labels. The silver label will be available at retail at three-for-$12 for basics, and three-for-$15 for novelty socks, from anklets and knee-highs to tubes and footliners. The black label will offer single pairs at $7 to $25, and feature handknitted socks and boot toppers, with embroidery and appliqué, as well as luxury fibers such as mohair, angora and cashmere.

“We decided there was a section we weren’t addressing, a layer of department stores that we were not currently in,” said Gina Edwards, sales manager at Hot Sox. “Many departments are very price driven and their customers are very price conscious.”

Nine West ventured into multiple pricing with trouser socks six years ago and has since expanded the program to include basic and novelty fashion styles. Customers can typically mix and match across classifications, including over-the-knee socks and legwarmers. Individually, each pair retails for $6 and a combination of three will carry a $15 price tag.

“The customer was able to purchase a wardrobe assortment and receive a reward for that. It was key to building rapid volume,” said Pat McNellis, president of women’s brands of Royce Hosiery, Nine West’s legwear licensee. “As a retailer, you make a trend statement easily, all in one fixture, in one location, with strong signage. You don’t have to quote a range of price points to the customer. It’s a clear merchandising strategy at retail.”

Ken McHale, sales manager and merchandising coordinator at Legale Legwear, said: “It varies from account to account, but some buyers want one entire side of fixture at one price point.”

Legale Legwear ventured into multiple pricing more than five years ago, but pulled back after a few seasons — only to return to it this spring.

“We found there was a spike in sales the first season we did it, but after a while, we felt it wasn’t that significant, so we dropped it,” McHale said. “Starting this spring, we joined the herd again and are now offering socks at three-for-$15. Our department store buyers had asked us to do it for consistency on the floor.”

In an effort to accommodate customer demand, many stores allow clients to pick socks across brands. That is a key challenge, noted McHale. “It can cause some confusion as to who is getting billed for the markdown,” he said.

Molly Mott, vice president of sales at Kayser-Roth, the maker of Hue, said jumping into multiple pricing has helped the brand rapidly build market share. “In 1997, our sock business was pretty small and we were trying to figure how we could get into the game,” Mott said. “We started offering the three-for strategy, first in socks, then with tights and trouser socks. We did it to drive multiple sale and to boost our basic business.”

Hue offers basic socks at three-for-$12, fashion socks and knee-highs at three-for-$15 and most tights are three-for-$17.50. Sheers are two-for-$12. Summer items like foot tubes, toe toppers and liners are three-for-$12.

But is multiple pricing the final sock solution?

“As long as the sock department stays on the main floor, it’s a necessary tactic because it drives business and stores need the volume to justify the space on the main floor,” said Lipson at American Essentials. “That might change if the trend to move legwear upstairs with intimates continues, though. Once she makes the trek upstairs, she will look for specific items and then it will be less about a deal and more about the item.”

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