MAKERS LOOK TO PUMP UP MARKET WITH VALUE-ADDED PRODUCTS

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Legwear vendors say they’ll have a lot to put on the table at this week’s market here, as they aim at fall gains with new products, labels and ad campaigns.
Some vendors are looking to overcome the decline in boot socks, whose sales faltered last year after a strong 1994. There is also the continued drive to get more value-added products on retail shelves, products that will yield better margins, particularly in sheer hosiery, where unit volume continues to sag and price promotion is widespread.
Key ideas include:
* Expanded assortments under designer labels and new designer labels.
* Greater use of luxury fibers.
* More variety in plus sizes.
* Increased offerings in sports-specific athletic socks.
* Fashion looks in socks, from men’s wear styling to feminine florals.
Hanes Hosiery is putting more effort behind the plus-size business, with a new plus-size collection in its Hanes Too sheer pantyhose line, aimed at the mass market. The line will include sandal-foot sheers, regular-top and control-top, to retail at around $3.95 and $4.50, respectively, a Hanes spokeswoman said.
Under its licensed DKNY label, Hanes will offer seamless styles for the first time. The seamless styling, still relatively new on the market and aiming at a smoother line, will come in both sheer pantyhose and opaques. Available in 11 colors, the seamless looks will retail from $11.50 to $15.
Another first at Hanes will be the addition of opaques to its Silk Reflections label. The opaques will have banded packaging rather than the usual flat pack and will come in three styles, with suggested retails ranging from $7.50 to $9. As of this market, the brand’s tights and socks will be marketed under the Silk Reflections label instead of the Silk Reflections Casual label.
At Pennaco Hosiery, Mitch Brown, legwear manager, said the operation is looking for a double-digit percentage increase in fall orders.
A key element, he said, will be its licensed Anne Klein label, which will be extended to athletic socks. Made of acrylic and cotton, each style of the four-piece group will carry the designer’s initials.
For fall, packaging for Anne Klein legwear will coordinate with the hang tags for the designer’s sportswear, and a $500,000 advertising campaign — the first to be used for Ann Klein legwear — will be released for fall to develop a cohesive brand image, Brown said.
As a special promotion during September, consumers who purchase $40 worth of Anne Klein hosiery will receive a free pair of pantyhose.
Also at Pennaco, the licensed Givenchy collection will feature plus sizes for the first time, Brown noted. They’ll be added to the Body Gleamers, Body Shimmers and knee-high groups. Plus sizes should account for at least 10 percent of the brand’s overall business in the next year, Brown said. The firm’s Round the Clock label will add maternity pantyhose. They’ll be called Round the Clock Nine Months and will be available in an opaque toning leg and a sheer toning leg. According to Brown, many stores have requested the product, which will be offered in two sizes — three-to-six-month and seven-to-nine-month.
At DML Marketing, which makes the Legale and Kenneth Cole legwear lines, a variety of looks under both labels will be on view, according to Barbara Russillo, vice president for DML. Socks in classics such as houndstooth, floral designs and heather looks should be key.
Legale’s first advertising campaign breaks next month in consumer publications. The campaign, which carries the tag line, “Keep Your Socks On,” was designed by David Sirieix, who owns the advertising agency here that bears his name.
In June, a coordinating outdoor campaign will be launched here on bus stop shelters and telephone kiosks. Thousands of posters will be placed in various locations in the city and a similar campaign is planned for Los Angeles.
Ridgeview, the maker of Ellen Tracy legwear, will hold March market in its new 3,000-square-foot showroom at 1412 Broadway. Maria Giraldi, Northeast sales manager, will oversee showroom operations.
Socks, which were discontinued after last fall’s shipments due to merchandising and shipping problems, will be relaunched during market, according to Barry Tartarkin, vice president of licensing and product development. The 18-piece line should be a key component in this fall’s orders, which are expected to double last year’s, Tartarkin said.
The company aims to increase sales by expanding distribution in existing accounts and opening new ones, he said. One draw the firm is counting on is the first national advertising campaign for Ellen Tracy legwear, which will break this fall and should strengthen brand awareness.
Adding to the designer ranks in legwear is Trimfit. As reported, the company has signed licensing agreements with Cynthia Rowley for socks and tights, and with Anna Sui for tights.
“We feel strongly about these two women designers. Each has a great flair and a good following,” said Arnold Kramer, president. “We’re looking forward to working with both of them.”
Gold Toe will introduce its licensed Jockey For Her socks, an eight-piece line, which should contribute to the 20 percent increase planned for fall, said Michelle Cannon, vice president of sales for women’s and boys’ for Great American Knitting Mills, Gold Toe’s parent and a unit of Bidermann Industries.
For its signature line, Gold Toe has expanded fashion offerings 20 percent and expects floral, lace, men’s wear and Nordic looks to be important, she said.
To highlight fashion looks during market, a model will be in the showroom wearing socks and tights from the new line.
Michael Berger, vice president of Ben Berger, said he expects socks made of luxury fibers, which were popular last year, to add to fall growth. The company’s 60 styles of luxury socks — in such fibers as angora, cashmere and mohair — should tally $3 million in wholesale volume for fall, a 30 percent gain over last year’s.
With consumers responding to conservative and classic looks, nylon and Lycra spandex microfiber socks in solids, ribs and flat knits should be important, Berger said.
Overall, the company aims to increase annual sales at least 20 percent by expanding distribution in existing accounts and broadening its private label program, he said.
At least 40 buyers should review the fall collection during market. To accommodate the growing numbers of visitors to its showroom, Ben Berger plans to relocate to a larger midtown site here by June.
Reflecting the growing emphasis on athletics, The Hot Sox Co., as reported, will unveil its Ralph Lauren silver label collection of sport-specific socks.
Fall offerings of Ralph Lauren socks made of luxurious fibers will be expanded, since the category was a bestseller last fall, a Hot Sox spokeswoman said. Cashmere blend socks that retail for $25 should be important, she added.
In the firm’s own Hot Sox label, the opening retail prices of socks in novelty patterns will be reduced from $7.50 to $6.50, to capture more market share. Novelty looks account for 25 percent of the line.
At Kayser-Roth Corp., the licensed Hue line is beefing up its tights business for fall with the introduction of more control-top styles in fashion looks — patterns and textiles — as well as new packaging and fashion styles for Hue Q, the brand’s large-size line, said Pat McNellis, vice president of sales.
Planning for double-digit percentage increases for fall, Calvin Klein hosiery — also a licensed line produced by Kayser Roth — aims to broaden distribution for its collection shaper pantyhose as well as CK by Calvin Klein no-seam pantyhose, said Denise Landman, vice president of Calvin Klein hosiery worldwide.
Tights in a variety of colors, such as amber and acid green, should be important for fall, Landman said.
“We believe in shine and iridescence,” Landman said. “The big news will be color.”
A newcomer on the scene this market is Lady Elegance, a Los Angeles-based firm with two lines of sheer pantyhose and tights, Caresse and Sophia. During this month’s market, both lines will be shown at Amy Carr Accessories at 15 West 31st St.
The Caresse collection will wholesale from $4.50 for ultrasheers to $7.50 for patterned tights. The Sophia line will be priced about 30 percent lower than Caresse.

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