SOCK SALES MAKING STRIDES
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Socks, which are traditionally a hot commodity during the Christmas selling season, are ringing up single-digit percentage gains so far this season, according to a spot check of retailers across the country.
While novelty items with Christmas motifs and socks made of luxury fibers are among the popular styles, basic trouser socks are also contributing to the holiday business.
It’s not only gift-giving that’s lifting the figures. Sales associates at Barneys New York reported that customers are purchasing more socks for themselves than for others, according to Judy Collinson, divisional merchandise manager.
Basic trouser socks in a variety of blends, such as cotton and nylon or nylon and Lycra spandex, are checking well. With retail prices ranging from $9 to $18, Calvin Klein and Giorgio Armani Calze are the best-selling labels.
Achille novelty anklets with whimsical motifs, such as clocks and Scottish terriers at $16, are also hot items at Barneys.
Cashmere socks, which are generally popular gifts, are not selling “wildly,” Collinson noted. But overall, she added, sock sales for the holiday season at Barneys are running ahead of last year.
At Neiman Marcus, Ben Berger chenille blend or angora blend socks with a black fake fur cuff have helped to push the sock business ahead of last year, a company spokeswoman said. Most customers are purchasing the socks in red or green.
Neiman Marcus’s private label cashmere socks in black or natural, which retail for $36, are doing well at retail. Calvin Klein cashmere socks at $50 and the Donna Karan version at $40 are also popular.
DKNY mohair, acrylic and nylon slouch socks with signature tread soles in brights, at $16, have been checking, the spokeswoman said.
Sock sales are running 5 percent ahead of last year at Elder-Beerman, the Dayton, Ohio-based chain, and the company aims to maintain that growth for the rest of the season, said Sue Perkowski, buyer.
Elder-Beerman has sold 12,600 units of its $1.97 private label triple- roll socks in the past four weeks, she said. The socks are available in five styles and eight colors, and burgundy and hunter are key colors. In the past month, the retailer has also sold 12,000 units of its $7 private label wool blend boot socks, Perkowski said.
For Christmas novelty looks, many customers are buying Ben Berger anklets at $6 with Santa Claus figures that play music. Shoppers also like the looks of Gold Toe’s $7.50 acrylic blend boot socks with a reindeer motif.
Going forward, rayon blend socks by Ben Berger, Gold Toe and Hot Sox should be important for spring, Perkowski added.
At Boston Sox, an eight-unit specialty operation based in Seattle, K. Bell is a strong vendor, according to Laurie Boston, chief executive officer and buyer. With a retail price of $8, K. Bell’s novelty anklets carrying motifs such as cooking, gardening, Noah’s Ark and angels are bestsellers.
Socks made of luxury yarns such as angora and chenille are first runner-up. Retail prices range from $7 to $15, with Ben Berger, Legale, Hot Sox and Calvin Klein being important resources.
Calvin Klein socks, which retail from $8 to $15, are popular among teenagers and adults in a wide range of patterns and colors, she said.
“It’s the hot name right now,” Boston said.
With retail prices varying from $7.50 to $10, Fox River, Wigwam and American Essentials are at the top of the list for wool blend socks at Boston Sox.
Sales of socks so far are running 5 percent ahead of last year, and the retailer is planning to finish the year with an 8 percent gain, said Boston, adding that offering more luxury fiber socks, which are priced higher than other styles, has helped to boost business.
In addition, the company has benefited from the recent exposure it has received for collecting socks for the first time in its stores for the needy.
Despite the increases and the good publicity, Boston said additional growth has been inhibited by a two-month-old employee strike at two of Boeing’s factories in the retailer’s trading area.
Pete Tundel, co-owner of two stores called Sox Appeal in the Minneapolis area, part of a franchised chain based in Eden Prairie, Minn., said argyle trouser socks by Hot Sox, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole and Legale, which retail from $5 to $12.50, are very popular. Shoppers are also buying solid knee-highs and anklets from the same resources in a similar price range.
Novelty anklets from 15 different vendors and retailing from $5 to $10 are also checking well. Socks with teddy bears, dogs, American flags and images of Elvis Presley are popular.
Overall, sock sales are 5 percent ahead of last year, said Tundel, adding greater increases are expected for spring.
“Fashion has been lagging, and we kind of follow that trend. We’re not back all the way yet, but business should improve for spring,” he said. “People are going to open their closets and see they need things.”