MARKET’S SEASONS MERGE

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — A market for all seasons — that’s what the November legwear event has become.
No longer exclusively for spring merchandise, next week’s market will offer products for immediate delivery, holiday, spring, summer and, yes, even next fall.
Slow legwear sales at retail — due in part to this fall’s unseasonably warm weather — has encouraged some vendors to take an early-bird approach.
Fall and holiday 1998 will be the focus next week at Pennaco Hosiery, which produces licensed Givenchy and Round the Clock sheers, as well as Anne Klein and Danskin socks.
“We’re going to preview fall and holiday,” said Susan Kerner, director of merchandising and marketing. “Everyone wants to know further in advance how they’ll be flowing merchandise all year long.”
Retailers are consolidating their brands to play up bestsellers, she noted.
“Stores want to get new goods in on a year-round basis,” she said. “They’re going after what they believe in. They know there’s no reason for being in every style.”
The Hot Sox Co. took another approach to getting a jump on business.
The company introduced its spring line earlier this year so sales representatives could take it on the road.
Sales associates have spent the past few weeks showing the line at such retailers as Dayton Hudson and Marshall Field’s, said Gail Tricarico, sales manager for Hot Sox.
“We introduced the November line earlier. This is the first time we pre-lined to get a jump on the competition,” she said. The strategy is paying off. Hot Sox’s sales for spring are 12 percent ahead of last year’s.
At Hanes Hosiery, the emphasis will be on spring for Donna Karan and summer for DKNY.
Knowing that summer is “a challenge for any hosiery manufacturer,” Hanes has decreased its prices for DKNY socks so that all will retail for $7.50 or less, said Deborah Boria, executive vice president of design and merchandising. Some of the socks had been 50 cents higher.
“Stores are looking to be competitive with pricing. Some branded goods are up against private label,” Boria said. “Color will also be an important story for spring. Color brings customers to the wall, and that will result in an impulse purchase a lot of the time.”
At the American Essentials showroom, executives will be showing the summer line for Calvin Klein socks, as well as reviewing spring for American Essentials and Guess. The company also expects a smattering of immediate orders.
“November market has the purpose of finalizing everything,” said Jordan Lipson, president and chief executive officer of American Essentials. “A lot of people are putting their budgets to bed.”
For the first time, the company is offering a Guess display fixture to buyers who order at least $500 worth of Guess merchandise.
Kayser-Roth Corp. has big plans for November — the first summer collection of its licensed Hue socks in a few years, plus a group of sharply priced basics and a three-pair-pack with a gift.
Each of the six styles in the summer group hits at, or slightly above, the ankle. Each pair wholesales for around $2.19. The group is being introduced to give Hue a greater year-round presence at retail, said Julia Clunard, director of marketing.
Hue Simple Basics, an eight-piece group featuring casual, career and athletic socks, wholesales from $1.51 to $1.90. The basics are designed to be offered as an option to discounted merchandise, Clunard said. As a controlled promotions brand, Hue only offers sales twice a year, she said.
With a retail price of $14, the gwp consists of three pairs of socks in a black mesh bag.
For its licensed Calvin Klein sheer hosiery, Kayser-Roth is introducing an ultrasheer shaper. The product wholesales for $7.75 and will be available in stores in mid-January.
Paul Lavitt Mills plans to launch its novelty-print socks under its In Step label. The 30-piece group wholesales from $2 to $2.50. Each of the prints has a saying on the sole. Socks with a birthday motif, for example, read, “Over the hill.”
With 50 appointments scheduled, the company’s market calendar is slightly off compared with last November’s, said Arthur Lavitt, president. But sales are currently 18 percent ahead of last year’s, he noted.
“There aren’t as many retailers as there were last year and not as many buyers are coming in,” he said. “Overall, business should be better because we’re offering new things and more novelty — luxury yarns and special fibers.”
To attract buyers’ attention, K. Bell sent wooden dolls with 19 swatches of fabrics for tights to 50 retailers this month. During market, K. Bell executives expect to meet with 37 of them — “a record number of appointments,” said Karen Bell, president and ceo of the Culver City, Calif., firm.
The fact that November market coincides with the New York ready-to-wear collections as well as the activewear market week has helped to boost attendance, Bell said.
With sales running 20 percent ahead of last year’s, Bell is optimistic.
“Sock business is good, junior business has come back and fashion looks and texture are back in,” she said. “Stores should be looking to buy merchandise instead of browsing — as they had in the past.”
Market week orders should benefit from DuPont’s plans to increase prices for Lycra spandex at the end of the year.
With legwear buyers looking for more fashion and less basics, K. Bell is serving up more girlish looks such as lace-trimmed anklets and shorties. Athletic socks are also in demand these days, with at least 18 stores expected to write orders, Bell said.
The recent warm weather slowed sales of fall legwear, said Pat McNellis, president of Nine West legwear, a division of Royce Hosiery. Nevertheless, she feels buyers will be ready to look at spring goods and some may even order.
Subtle shine and ethnic patterns are two important spring looks in Nine West’s 56-piece spring line.
“There’s not any one item to focus on, but rather a continuation of the construction trend,” McNellis said. “There’s a lot of surface interest.”
That feeling is being reinforced at Berkshire Hosiery, where shiny fishnets, back-seam sheers, matte shine and tulle should be key textures, said Kathy Mayer, director of merchandising.
Pleased with consumers’ response to casual items in flat packs, Berkshire is offering more options for spring. This tactic encourages more impulsive shopping, Mayer noted.
“We want to keep texture in the hosiery department rather than band it and place it in the sock department. We’re offering her lightweight textures to wear to work,” she said. “The consumer who buys that product wants to update her wardrobe, but she might not walk to the sock wall.”
There are about 45 stores expected to visit Berkshire’s showroom, during market. That should be a 5 to 10 percent increase compared with last November’s market.
Having hired a sock designer who has given the collection a more updated look, Liz Claiborne is confident about the outlook for spring, said Carol Hochman, president of Liz Claiborne Accessories. The past few November markets have attracted more buyers and management who are “anxious to insure holiday happens.”
To meet retailers’ varied needs and to maximize sales for the popular category, Claiborne’s spring socks line is 5 percent larger than last year’s, she noted.
“This is the golden age of slacks. We’re trying to take advantage of that,” she said. “Most women don’t want to wear pantyhose under their trousers. The Nineties have taught us one thing — it’s OK to be comfortable. Socks offer that.”
Look From Lon- don is stepping up its advertising for market week.
Next week, the company will put up 2,000 postings on Broadway between 42nd Street and Canal Street. The posters feature a photograph of a women’s legs with the tag line, “Look From London: The Coolest Tights in Town.” To assure retailers’ know about the campaign, the company faxed buyers reminding them to keep an eye out when they attend 7th on Sixth or the legwear market.
Unlike most vendors, Look From London will meet with 25 buyers, primarily to discuss key fashion trends for spring.
“We’re a fashion company. We want to find out what’s been popular at the ready-to-wear and couture shows,” said Michele Harper, creative director. “We want to know what they’re seeing for spring.”
Harper noted that although these meetings will be with legwear buyers, they are often knowledgeable about the overall fashion trend.
With sales running 30 percent ahead of last year’s, the company expects additional gains for spring. Harper said she’ll be talking up two spring items — back-seamed knee-highs and tattoo tights with ethnic ornaments.

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