APPAREL A PLUS IN HOSIERY
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Selling easy-care sportswear in hosiery departments — a practice to be incorporated at retail this fall by at least two key vendors — should be an effective way of boosting legwear sales, according to a survey of five industry executives.
Danskin and Wolford each expect their new offerings to generate more traffic in hosiery departments, whose carpets haven’t been getting too worn of late due to sluggish sales of sheers. The new programs should be a draw with young women — who don’t frequent the department as often as their elders — and with working women who don’t have unlimited time for shopping.
As reported, Danskin is offering a more extensive program with its Packables — an 11-piece collection of easy-care sportswear. Retail prices are expected to range from $20 for a cotton and Lycra spandex T-shirt to $78 for a Tactel nylon and spandex sleeveless dress.
The collection will be rolled out to 900 doors during the fourth quarter.
Wolford is serving up a more compact group — a short skirt retailing at $250, a long skirt at $250, a shirt at $180 and slim pants at $225.
While the group is not expected to be a major volume business, it should bolster sales at better specialty stores and Wolford’s 15 boutiques in the U.S., according to Karen Schneider, president of Wolford America.
Introducing streetwear-inspired looks to hosiery departments should help attract younger customers — whose visits to the department are not as frequent as their elders, said Carol Pedelty, retail marketing manager for DuPont.
“Any new idea is worth trying,” she said. “It can bring in new, younger customers provided the styling and merchandising is there.”
The cosmetics industry attracted a slew of young women by introducing brightly colored nail polish, Pedelty noted. She said she has been a proponent of selling apparel in hosiery departments for a few years.
European retailers have embraced the concept in the past year or so, she said. There are now 10 European hosiery makers that produce bodywear, activewear or sportswear, Pedelty noted.
To accommodate shoppers who might be reluctant to purchase apparel in the hosiery departments, a few European stores have set up fixturing and fitting rooms.
Bloomingdale’s is considering offering basic sportswear in private label or Danskin Packables in its hosiery departments this fall, said Stephanie Zernik Doroff, vice president and divisional merchandise manager.
“When shopping on the main floor, people come in for pickup items; they’re not outfitting themselves head-to-toe in the hosiery departments,” Zernik said. “We’re talking about offering an editor’s assortment of key elements for their wardrobes.”
Introducing apparel into hosiery areas should bolster sales, she said.
“We want to use the space we have,” Zernick said. “It’s an opportunity to better serve our customers and build hosiery sales.”
In general, packaged essential pieces have been performing well at Bloomingdale’s, since there generally is a better perceived value in such merchandise, Zernik said.
The retailer has been doing “very well” with Belly Basics, a packaged four-style group of maternity clothes, she said.
“The nice thing about this is it’s not a trade-off business. It will be incremental sales,” Zernik said.
Lord & Taylor is holding off on making any commitments until it sees the apparel offerings, said Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president of fashion merchandising.
“It’s difficult to conceptualize until we actually see the product,” Olexa said.
The concept is a natural for department stores, which frequently cross merchandise in different departments, according to Denny Pickett, director of merchandising for Foot Traffic, a four-unit operation based in Kansas City, Mo.
The retailer has no plans to begin offering apparel, he said.
“It would be almost impossible for us to do because we don’t have fitting rooms,” Pickett said. “If they’re smart, they’ll pull in traffic by merchandising it in two areas.”
Kayser-Roth Corp., which sells leggings and casual tops under its licensed Hue Studio label, has seen sales gains for that label as nonhosiery items have increased, said Julia Clinard, vice president of marketing.
“It creates excitement and gets people into the department. This is something we’ll see more of this fall,” she said. “This is important to our consumer. She looks for it from us.”
Clinard said she hopes the introduction of more apparel this fall helps boost overall hosiery sales.
“What we’re seeing is some experimentation,” she said. “It will be interesting to see the results.”