SOME NEWNESS AFOOT FOR MARKET
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Despite the expected light traffic, some sock and pantyhose makers are ready to focus on new products at this week’s hosiery market.
Most firms agreed that January is the least productive of the five hosiery markets. With such giant retailers as J.C. Penney Co. and Sears, and specialty stores such as Jacobson’s, opting to sit out this market, several legwear firms said smaller specialty stores will generate most of their orders. Nevertheless, with last fall’s strong business behind them, makers feel there is an opportunity to build business this week.
The market officially opens today and runs through Friday. Hanes Hosiery, a division of the Sara Lee Corp., plans to focus on its Silk Reflections Petites pantyhose, according to Debbie Hobbs, vice president. Available in three styles and 14 colors, the collection wholesales from $2.46 to $2.95. Having tested the line in six markets since August, Silk Reflections Petites should account for an additional 20 percent in sales for the Silk Reflections label in the first year, she said.
Hanes aims to attract more Asian and Hispanic women with its new product, Hobbs said. “Petite women have been virtually ignored by the hosiery industry,” she said. “We’re finally noticing that all women aren’t supermodel skyscraper types.”
Etc. Inc. will preview its newly licensed Evan-Picone socks and tights. Designed to coordinate with Evan-Picone ready-to-wear, the 65-piece collection features trouser socks, knee-highs, over-the-knee socks and tights.
Projected volume for the new collection’s first year is $3 million, according to Robert Sussman, executive vice president.
Wholesale prices will range from $1.25 for trouser socks to $3.25 for knee-highs.
In addition to Evan-Picone, Etc. produces and markets Hush Puppies’ women’s socks, as well as private label socks and tights. Evan-Picone socks will be displayed this week at Etc.’s new showroom at 350 Fifth Ave.
At The Hot Sox Co. Inc., the focus will be on new additions to the firm’s microfiber, openwork and textured tights, according to Gary Wolkowitz, president and director of design. Socks and tights made from mohair, chenille, bouclé and fur blends will also be important, he said.
For some firms, the focus will be on promotional strategies. Mitch Brown, manager of Pennaco Hosiery, a division of Danskin Inc., said he plans to speak with buyers about expanding co-op advertising as well as gift-with-purchase programs.
“We want to help retailers communicate with their customers. They need to know which products to focus on for promotions,” he said.
Givenchy’s hip and tummy “controlleur” at $4.47, Givenchy’s Passion Privee pantyhose with lace panty at $4 and Givenchy’s Passion Privée thigh-highs at $4.25 should be bestsellers, he said.
January market accounts for 10 percent of Pennaco’s annual business, said Brown, adding most buyers use the event to replenish early spring orders.
Kayser-Roth Corp., which produces No Nonsense legwear as well as its licensed Calvin Klein, Hue, Burlington and Easy Spirit legwear, is expecting light traffic, according to Keith Mabe, vice president of marketing.
“Traditionally, this is not a big market for us. It gives buyers the opportunity to reexamine items they may have overlooked in the fall,” he said. “Most retailers are coming off a really good fall. Some might want to extend the spring selling season by ordering [more] tights and socks.” Meanwhile, retailers said they were anxious to see what’s in store for spring.
“We need new looks,” said Susan Perkowski, hosiery buyer for Elder-Beerman, Dayton, Ohio. “The market doesn’t look real fresh. Sales for basics are slowing down, and there aren’t any new products like last fall’s over-the-knee styles.”
With a budget 25 percent larger than last January, Perkowski said she plans to focus on casual legwear. While sheer sales are even with last year, socks and tights are key items, she said. Casual legwear now accounts for 42 percent of the firm’s hosiery sales, compared with 35 percent in 1993, she said.
She said she will pick up Gold Toe and Hot Sox multi-packs, Leg Rave trouser socks and Ergee over-the-knee socks. In 1994, Elder-Beerman more than tripled its multipack sales compared with 1993, she said.
“We put a lot of dollars into it to maximize it. It will turn the other way unless manufacturers offer new renditions,” Perkowski said. “It’s predominantly sport socks.”
Leggale, Ben Berger, Ditto Legwear, Paul Lavitt Mills and Jones New York are some of the showrooms she will visit.
With a high-single-digit percentage increase planned for sock sales, Kim Cropper, buyer for Woodward & Lothrop, Washington, said she’ll place orders for spring socks with Hue, Hot Sox, American Essentials, Leggale and Liz Claiborne. She said she won’t order additional sheers, since sales are flat compared with last year.
Pairs of socks that retail between $5 and $6 and three-pair multipacks at $9 are best-selling items at Woody’s, she said.