MIXED REPORT CARD MAY BE IN THE OFFING FOR NHE 1997

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Next month, retailers will officially cast their ballots with the National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers about the success of the National Hosiery Event. But early indications reflect mixed reviews from stores ranging from “very successful” to “insignificant.”
Founded in 1994 as National Hosiery Week, the first event centered on building the sheer business, which had tapered off due to the acceptance of casual dress codes. This year’s event, a three-week affair that ended Sept. 21, offered consumers more information about legwear fashion trends, hosiery care and fit.
Next month, the NAHM’s retail advisory council will have one of its three annual meetings here to determine how this year’s NHE affected sales.
Sid Smith, president and chief executive officer of the NAHM, said he was anxious to meet with retailers to measure the impact on business.
To mark this year’s occasion, the NAHM set up in-store events, special on-air promotions and gifts-with-purchase. The organization distributed consumer booklets, highlighting the benefits of hosiery, through 115 department stores, specialty stores and mass marketers.
Kmart, Lord & Taylor and J.C. Penney were among the major retailers that participated by distributing booklets, offering special promotions and spotlighting new in-store displays. During the week of Sept. 14, Kmart promoted hosiery through special offers and in-store displays.
“A lot of our hosiery buyers walked the sales floors in the stores to see what customers had to say,” said a Kmart spokeswoman. “We thought the program was very successful.”
Many of the retailer’s 2,122 stores distributed coupon booklets offering savings on No Nonsense, L’eggs and Just My Size hosiery. Participating stores received 250 booklets, the spokeswoman said. Savings varied from 50 cents to $1 per purchase.
As part of the NHE, Kmart marked down its private label and licensed Jaclyn Smith hosiery. Jaclyn Smith tights, for example, which normally retail for $5, were discounted to $4.
To remind customers of savings advertised in the retailer’s Sunday circular, there were additional circulars available in the midway area of the store.
“We wanted to make it easy for customers, so we put them in the front of the store where they’d see them,” the Kmart spokeswoman said.
Buyers at some retail chains declined to comment on the event, some adding they questioned its effectiveness as far as directly impacting business.
Rich Zappala, buyer for Macy’s West, expressed some of this sentiment: “It’s great to inform customers about yarns if that’s what they want to learn about. Most customers don’t care about technology. If the NAHM wants to continue to supply the information, that’s great. Does it effect business? No.”
The event did drum up publicity that could be eventually meaningful, some stores acknowledged.
Five hundred radio stations aired a radio news release to an estimated four million listeners, a NAHM spokeswoman said. That figure was less than forecast, as Princess Diana’s death resulted in extended news broadcasts, she noted.
Cincinnati, Houston and Tulsa were among the 30 major radio markets that participated in the radio campaign.
In addition, many local TV stations aired clips from the NAHM’s video news release, which were seen by an estimated 15 million viewers. Footage from the New York Collections for fall was a key component, the spokeswoman said.
With all the emphasis on sheers, sock makers also felt that their product was overlooked in the effort.
DEL Marketing, the maker of Legale and its licensed Kenneth Cole socks, has been involved with the event on the mass level through its private label programs.
However, Barbara Russillo, vice president of marketing, pointed out, “The NAHM has never contacted any of the top 10 sock brands in department stores — as far as I know. If they contacted us, I’d be happy to be involved. Anything that brings more visibility to the category or sheds more light on legwear as an accessory is certainly warranted.”
John Moretz, president and ceo of Moretz Mills, another sock maker, agreed that the promotion has potential: “I think it has a lot of merit. It behooves the industry to work on the endeavor.” But he added, “I don’t know that the efforts have been spectacular enough to grab consumers and knock them over the head.”
Kevin Angliss, vice president of marketing for Auburn Hosiery Mills, emphasized the importance of getting more retailers involved.
“It hasn’t meant as much as it should. It always depends on retailers. When they back it, it makes some sense,” he said. “We’re always opening to listening.”
In previous years, Auburn has offered such special promotions as gwp’s.
“But the retailers want promotions to fit their calendar — not one that is put out by the NAHM,” Angliss said.

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