Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — To drum up interest in the sagging sheers business this fall, retailers are updating hosiery departments with new fixtures, displays and products.
There’s a also a move in some stores to pare back selections to sharpen the focus on better-selling styles and the new items with potential.
The launch of Donna Karan’s Evolution, which is being billed as “The Next Step in Hosiery,” is seen as a possible winner, and point-of-purchase displays that coordinate with the product’s packaging are getting a play.
One of the major retailers that has spruced up the look of its hosiery department is Macy’s West. Fixtures for sheers are now equipped with leg forms and cards outlining products’ qualities. On the walls of the retailers’ hosiery departments, photographs of dancers circa 1930 have been replaced with images of women wearing little more than sheers.
“Our departments were looking dated. That wasn’t appropriate any longer,” said hosiery buyer Rich Zappala. “Now the departments have really changed. They’ve taken on a lighter, airier and more contemporary feeling.”
This fall Bloomingdale’s is focusing on BeLuxe, its new line of private label luxury sheers, as well as Donna Karan’s Evolution. BeLuxe, launched by Bloomingdale’s early this month, has approximately six styles and retails from $12 to $18. Vitrines and freestanding signs highlighting the new products have been placed on the main floor of the flagship. There are also full-length photographs of women in hosiery.
Discussing the BeLuxe line, Stephanie Zernik, vice president and divisional merchandise manager, said, “There’s a need for more luxury products because the customer really understands them. It’s important to have your own brand of luxury products.
“We’re seeing some life in the sheer business again,” Zernik added. “Basics continue to kick in sales, and newness is another driving factor.”
In July, Bloomingdale’s also began eliminating styles or colors that represent less than 1 percent of a vendor’s business, the executive noted. “It’s more important to have more stock in key pieces,” Zernik said.
Jacobson’s, based in Jackson, Mich., aims to sharpen business for sheers by eliminating secondary styles and colors.
“The bottom line is women are so confused when they go into a hosiery department that they’re not willing to try a new brand,” said Jennifer Mezza, hosiery buyer.
The retailer has reduced the amount of floor space given to sheer hosiery by 10 percent compared to last year, she said. Offerings have been limited without eliminating vendors, Mezza noted.
“I’m tightening up my sheer assortment to key into what’s working with sheers,” she said. “I’m doing more business on less inventory.”
Sales of two newcomers to Jacobson’s hosiery departments — Evolution and Hanes Irresistibles — have been “phenomenal,” Mezza said.
“Maybe shoppers are just starving for newness in the sheer area,” she added.
The space reallocation should also help maximize sales for casual legwear — a growth area for the retailer. Space that was formerly designated for sheers has been turned over to casual legwear.
Another retailer carefully editing its sheer inventory is Milwaukee-based Carson Pirie Scott. The department store has reduced the amount of sheers in 70 percent of its units, said Margaret Scott, hosiery buyer. Some sheers have been replaced with more opaques in flat-packs from such vendors as Jockey For Her, Round the Clock and Evan-Picone.
“[Sheer] hosiery has become very confusing because there are so many choices,” she said.
Signs touting Hanes Silk Reflections and resources for tights are being used in the department. The strategy seems to be working.
“Sales of sheers have leveled out. We’re making plan,” Scott said. “We’re pleased.”
At J.C. Penney Co., sales of sheers are running slightly ahead of last year, due in part to oversized, colorful signs highlighting brands or special promotions, said Mary Jane Mauro, hosiery buyer.
“We’ve stepped up our whole message. We’re saying, ‘Here’s your brand,”‘ she said. “And if it’s on sale, we’re saying, ‘Here’s the sale.”‘
Offering better visual displays should attract younger customers, many of whom have never or seldom wear sheers, said Mauro.

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