The total U.S. hosiery market, which includes sheer hosiery, tights and socks, grew 3 percent to $7.3 billion in the year through May, with the Millennial age group showing the most growth, according to a new report from the NPD Group.

Hosiery sales among Millennials – women ages 18 to 34 — increased 12 percent over the same time period a year earlier, according to NPD.

While tights and socks have enjoyed consistent gains in recent years, sheer hosiery had been the segment that struggled until recently. Millennials now represent 27 percent of the $482 million sheer hosiery market, up 9 percent in dollar sales in the year.

On average, consumers buy 1.4 sheer hosiery items per purchase, with tops being the apparel item most included with these purchases, according to data from NPD Group’s Checkout Tracking, a new service that provides comprehensive information on consumer buying behavior based on receipts for online and brick-and-mortar retail purchases. Checkout Tracking noted that Millennials are more likely to attach socks to their sheer hosiery purchase than non-Millennials.

While Millennials tend to purchase their hosiery from mass merchants, and consumers age 35 and up are more likely to purchase from department stores, it is the off-price and direct mail/e-commerce channels that represent the majority of the sales growth for sheer hosiery in the 12 months through May.

“Millennials are changing the game for hosiery, just as they are in categories throughout retail, but they are also playing by different rules,” said Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “Traditional thinking and marketing approaches don’t apply to this consumer segment — it’s about being different, and marketers need to follow suit, even in a category with a strong heritage.”

Purchasing patterns among the demographic also showed a 24 percent dollar sales gain in tights to garner a 45 percent market share, with a 6 percent increase in socks purchases and a 29 percent share. Men’s socks purchases among Millennials increased 13 percent for a 30 percent share of the segment.

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