NEW ITEMS PULL THE BUYERS
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Despite the overall light buyer traffic at last week’s hosiery market, there were some pockets of action, particularly in showrooms where newer items or lines were being offered.
Some key sheer resources such as Hanes Hosiery, Pennaco Hosiery and Ithaca Industries described the market as quiet and not much different from a year ago. Socks and tights vendors were getting more play, with the retailers who turned up for the market often seeking immediate deliveries, reflecting the generally strong business that stores had with this merchandise last fall.
At least 60 buyers stepped into DML Marketing’s showroom to order socks and tights by Leggale and Kenneth Cole, according to Barbara Russillo, vice president. This was considered good for a January show, but paled in comparison with November, when at least 95 buyers were there, she said.
Nevertheless, Kenneth Cole’s collection, which was launched in March, should see a double-digit percentage gain compared with the November market, Russillo said.
“There were a lot of at-once orders since the sock business is so good,” she said. “With the recent cold snap, a lot of people don’t have enough socks on their sales floors. “Last spring was not a stellar season for socks. But the new shoe silhouettes and fashion influences indicate we should see substantial gains,” Russillo added.
Designer Todd Oldham’s new 36-piece socks and tights collection drew a good crowd at Celeste Stein Designs’ Fifth Avenue showroom. Oldham, who completed a licensing agreement with Trimfit last week, also has a licensing agreement with Stein.
The Trimfit collection, to be introduced in March, carries just the Todd Oldham name and will consist of basic socks and tights. The Celeste Stein, Times Seven by Todd Oldham collection features the designer’s signature prints and buttons, she said.
Projected volume for the Stein/Oldham collection for the first year is $2 million, according to Stein, owner and designer of the company that bears her name.
During market week, every buyer who reviewed the collection placed orders, she said. Wholesale prices range from $3.50 for nylon trouser socks to $9.50 for nylon and Lycra spandex tights.
At Etc.’s showroom, 41 retailers saw the new Evan-Picone sock collection, according to Robert Sussman, executive vice president.
However, he pointed out, the ordering overall was slim, with bookings generating only about $150,000 — or 5 percent of the sock company’s projected annual volume, Sussman said.
Lightweight cotton crew socks at $1.75, cotton pointille socks at $1.75 and midweight marled boot socks at $2 were the top sellers, he said.
Meanwhile, the skimpy retail turnout did boast some big store names — Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor.
With casual looks continuing to drive the business at Saks, the company is planning for “substantial growth,” according to Gail Pisano, divisional merchandise manager.
Additional spring orders for casual items were placed “accordingly” with Wolford, Donna Karan, DKNY, Ralph Lauren and Armani, she said. A low double-digit percentage increase is planned for spring, with sock sales accounting for a “tremendous portion” of the business. Fall sales for socks and tights were 40 percent ahead of plan, and sheers were even, compared with the previous year, she added.
Last fall, Calvin Klein and Wolford enhanced hosiery sales with the latter seeing an increase of 50 percent, Pisano said.
Donna Karan’s toners and sheers and DKNY’s fishnets in pastels will be key for spring, she said. “Sheers should increase slightly this spring, but we still believe most of the growth will come from socks and casual items,” she said. “Casual legwear continues to grow well beyond plan. We’ll look at some new folks, but we’re buying in greater depth and maximizing the resources that we have.”
DKNY, Donna Karan, Kenneth Cole, Givenchy and Christian Dior are important resources at Lord & Taylor, according to Lavelle Olexa, vice president of fashion merchandising.
Lace, open work and textured looks will be popular this spring, she said.
In terms of fashion, fishnets, over-the-knee socks and thigh-highs continue strong, she added.
Sheers by Calvin Klein, Wolford, Ellen Tracy, Anne Klein and Donna Karan were on Neiman Marcus’s checklist, according to Joan Kaner, vice president and fashion director.
“Our hosiery business has been terrific. There isn’t an area or category that isn’t performing but sheers have been leading the way,” Kaner said. “The casual side of the business has also been good.”
DKNY, Ralph Lauren and Armani are primary resources for thigh-highs, knee-highs and sport socks, she added.
Denny Pickett, director of merchandising for Foot Traffic, a Kansas City-based retail and mail-order business, said he spent 10 percent more at last week’s market, compared with the previous year.
Pickett said he visited 24 showrooms and ordered tights and novelty items from such lines as Ellen Tracy, Gamine, Hot Steps and Look From London.
Ben Berger, Kenneth Cole, American Essentials and Hot Sox are also important resources, he said. “We need to have every category covered. None of our vendors account for more than 6 percent of our overall business,” Pickett said. “We offer a wide price range from Hot Steps’ $6 thigh-highs to Hot Sox’s $25 cashmere blend tights.”
One of the new lines Pickett was particularly enthusiastic about was the Celeste Stein/ Todd OIdham collection. He noted he had always done well with Stein’s tights, and “there’s a lot of newness in Todd’s line…some great prints and colors.”
Pickett said he writes 10 percent of his annual business during January market.
“The market didn’t seem much different than the off-market weeks,” he said.