PRICE HIKES ON FALL AGENDA

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Buyers shopping the fall hosiery market will find many new looks and, in some showrooms, many new prices.
Several legwear firms said increases in cotton, nylon and other raw material costs have forced them to increase wholesale prices. When fall collections are unveiled during market week, which opens March 6 and runs through March 10, increases will range from slight to as much as 20 percent.
As reported, DuPont recently raised prices for nylon yarns used in warp and circular knit applications by an average of 5 to 7 percent, and BASF followed suit by raising prices on selected nylon yarns for wide elastic applications by 4 to 6 percent. Poor cotton crops abroad and an increased demand has triggered double-digit increases for cotton prices, which have fluctuated considerably in the past year.
Meanwhile, Monsanto as of April 3 will increase prices for its acrylic fibers by 5 cents a pound, with the exception of certain fibers for craft yarn makers. Earlier this year, the company increased all ecru acrylic fibers by 7 to 9 percent.
While Hanes Hosiery bumped up some prices in August, other hosiery manufacturers said they staved off increases until the upcoming fall market.
Meanwhile, some firms, such as K. Bell, The Hot Sox Co. and Ithaca Industries, said they will not raise prices this fall, hoping to maintain legwear’s upbeat momentum at retail.
In August, Hanes Hosiery increased prices for some items in its licensed Donna Karan and DKNY hosiery, and in January, Silk Reflections took a hit, according to Debbie Hobbs, executive vice president for Hanes and Donna Karan hosiery. Prices were raised due to increased manufacturing expenses and raw material costs, she said.
For example, wholesale prices increased for Silk Reflections’ sheer control-top pantyhose to $2.75 from $2.40 and for Donna Karan’s control-top opaque sheers to $6.52 from $6.07.
Hanes should not have additional increases for at least the next 18 months, since the company has long-term agreements with its major suppliers, Hobbs said.
Paul Lavitt Mills, which produces licensed Round The Clock socks and tights, as well as Nicole Miller socks, will raise its fall prices by at least 5 percent, according to Arthur Lavitt, president and chief executive officer.
“Everything is going up. I’ve never seen it like this; it’s scary,” he said. “No one can afford not to raise prices.”
Round the Clock’s cotton and nylon crew socks will increase to $1.08 from $1, slouch socks will climb to $1.25 from $1.10, and cotton and nylon tights will jump to $3.10 from $2.60.
The company has been unsuccessful in negotiating a long-term contract for cotton because the price of cotton has been changing so much, Lavitt said.
Most buyers understand the need for price increases, he said, but a buyer from one major retailer told Lavitt he had to write a letter to the president of the store, explaining the reasons for the increases.
Retail prices for Gold Toe’s basic anklets and knee-highs will increase by 25 cents to 50 cents, according to Jodi Marine, vice president of sales. Including the increases, the 153-piece fall collection is priced to retail from $4 for a basic anklet to $14 for a cashmere blend knee-high.
The prices of a few styles in Hue’s 114-piece fall collection will be increased, according to Keith Mabe, vice president for Kayser-Roth Corp., its licensee.
Mabe said it had not determined how many items would get price increases or how much the hikes would be. “Some all-cotton socks will go up at wholesale due to the cotton increases,” Mabe said. “We haven’t figured out how we’ll absorb the increases in nylon and acrylic.”
Each season after market week, the company edits out at least six styles from the line, and that elimination of fringe items will be particularly important this fall because of increased costs, he said.
To curb price hikes, Ridgeview Hosiery, which produces the licensed Ellen Tracy hosiery, plans a push to get retailers to commit early and allow larger production runs, according to Barry Tartarkin, vice president of licensing and private label development. “By producing more goods now for later in the year, we’re minimizing the impact,” he said.
However, he expects that about 30 percent of the company’s retailers will still prefer to buy closer to season and will face up to an 8 percent increase in prices, he said.
For those retailers, Ellen Tracy’s nylon knee-highs will wholesale for at least another cent, and Lycra spandex tights will wholesale for 50 cents more.
Tartarkin said most of his accounts indicated they will try to hold off on raising retail prices until 1996.
Last month Pennaco Hosiery increased its prices for five of its Round The Clock products and three of its Givenchy items, according to Alice Kaiser, marketing director.
For example, Round The Clock silky Lycra sheers, the brand’s bestsellers, now wholesale for $2.97 — a 10 cent increase. Wholesale prices for other styles such as Givenchy’s Body Gleamers increased to $3.75 from $3.50.
Consumers don’t expect price hikes, but they do accept them — just as they would with any commodity, such as coffee, she said.
“I don’t think it will hurt our business. Our prices are still competitive,” she said.
Prices for at least 40 styles in Ben Berger’s fall collection will increase by 5 or 10 percent, according to Michael Berger, vice president. Patterned merchandise will be priced higher since those items use more yarn than solid socks or tights, he said.
With prices for cotton, nylon, Lycra, acrylic, angora and cashmere on the rise and retail apparel prices declining, the problem is severe, he said.
“We’re hunting worldwide for yarns,” Berger said. “We get our cashmere in Mongolia, we process it in Japan and we make our cashmere blend socks in Turkey. That’s complicated for a pair of socks.” DML Marketing, which produces Leggale legwear, as well as the licensed Kenneth Cole socks and tights, plans to increase all its prices by at least 5 percent, according to Barbara Russillo, vice president.
Despite the price hikes, the company is planning for double-digit increases for both brands, since casual legwear has been so strong, she said.
“We’re having such an incredible sock season, and we’re using innovative yarns and treatments,” Russillo said. “We should be able to get a few more pennies at retail.”
To avoid price increases, K. Bell, the Culver City, Calif.-based sock and tights manufacturer, reduced packaging expenses and pared down its palette, according to Karen Bell, president and ceo.
“Survival in the Nineties relies on providing everyday values,” she said. “The business is still very price-driven, even though many of our accounts cater to consumers with fairly large discretionary incomes.”
Coming off two consecutive “very strong” seasons and looking to keep the pace going at retail, The Hot Sox Co. will absorb the increases in raw material to avoid raising fall prices, according to Gary Wolkowitz, president and director of design.
“With other vendors increasing prices, we plan to take advantage of the situation in the marketplace by holding our prices,” he said.
However, some Hot Sox products might face higher prices for holiday, he added.
Ithaca Industries, which manufactures and distributes its licensed Evan-Picone and Vanity Fair hosiery, will not raise prices for fall, according to Joni Zeller-Claxton, vice president of hosiery design. Since yarn costs account for 33 percent of the company’s manufacturing expenses, she said she feels the firm should be able to absorb any cost increases for the time being.

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