HOSIERY AS THEATER: THE PLAY’S THE THING
Byline: Marilyn Nason
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Selling hosiery in the future will bear little resemblance to today’s marketing methods.
To survive in the 21st century, manufacturers and retailers need to develop sound partnerships and strategies that take into account the fast-paced changes in retailing, including the growth of nonstore formats such as TV shopping, catalogs and automatic replenishment programs.
That was the message delivered by several speakers during the second annual National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers marketing symposium held here last month.
Brand awareness is expected to continue to play a key role in customers’ buying decisions, provided the brands offer acceptable fit and pricing, the speakers said. Ongoing education should lead to more knowledgeable hosiery-purchasing decisions.
Consultant Bill Ress pointed out that with the era of major expansion over for department stores and shopping centers, “the party is over for brands and private label in those settings.”
The concept of brand equity will move to brand superiority, he said. Brands will have to demonstrate superiority to thrive, he said, while the rationale for private label will be to offer a quality product at a lower price.
To compete with other methods of retailing, Ress noted, manufacturers and stores must work together to create theater-like presentations that offer shoppers entertainment.
“Just look at today’s cosmetics department for some ideas,” he said.
Gary Simmons, president of Healthtex in Greensboro, N.C., said his children’s wear company, a unit of VF Corp., has been successful with a few one-hour presentations on QVC. During one show, he said, Healthtex sold nearly $100,000 in merchandise.
Nonstore retailing is only part of his company’s business, he said, noting most shoppers practice cross-channel shopping, using several retail settings — conventional and nonstore.
Simmons, like several other speakers, warned that the U.S. is seriously overstored and predicted more mergers and consolidations were in the offing. Since hosiery is a replenishment product, Simmons said, he believes it is a natural for success in nonstore settings such as automatic consumer replenishment programs. Along with improving distribution policies and more Quick Response programs, manufacturers should develop consumer-ready merchandise adaptable to both in-store and nonstore retailing.
“Remember, the nonstore customer is still the same customer she was when strictly shopping in traditional retail stores,” he advised.
Simmons said brands would continue to be more important, “but only one or two per category, not six or seven, as today.”
The need for closer working relationships between retailers and manufacturers was underscored by Dorothy Rainey, women’s hosiery brand development manager at J.C. Penney Co.
She pointed to the success Penney’s has had with its private label programs, citing its Arizona label, and urged manufacturers to develop “total private label programs with planned support programs.”
Product packaging, Rainey said, must educate the consumer and make her feel good about buying the product, as well as look attractive.
“Every package must do the complete selling job,” she said.
She pointed out that new items continue to be the lifeblood of the hosiery category, driving sales with all levels of customers.