BUYERS SEE MARKET STRIDE CARRYING THE SEASON

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Coming off several consecutive seasons of steady gains, hosiery buyers shopping the fall market here last week said the momentum should carry forward.
That optimism was apparent in the traffic, so brisk in some showrooms that buyers shared appointment times.
Reflecting the still burgeoning trend to casual fashion, several buyers said they were on the lookout for textured boot socks, trouser socks and other men’s wear-inspired styles. Tights, which have been performing well at retail, were also in great demand, buyers said.
On the whole, buyers and vendors were equally enthusiastic about the coming season.
With sheer hosiery sales slightly ahead of last year’s, Macy’s East is counting on versions by Evan-Picone and Calvin Klein in colors to drum up additional business this fall, according to Linda Engel, hosiery buyer. Green, wine and other colors should be important for fall, she said, as well as textured looks.
She was also upbeat about Hanes Silk Reflections’ new seven-piece bridal collection, which wholesales from $4.50 to $10.80. The group should fill a niche that Macy’s East is not currently capturing, Engel said.
“There is a lot more going on in the market,” she said. “Everyone is more optimistic.”
With a budget about 8 percent larger than last fall’s, Laurie Boston, chief executive officer for Boston Sox, a Seattle-based eight-unit specialty store chain, said fashion tights were high on her check list.
Boston said she planned to order tights from DKNY, Calvin Klein, Trenders and Jessica Landau and socks from Liz Claiborne, K. Bell, Hue and E.G. Smith.
Sales are 10 percent ahead of last year’s, even though sheer business is off by 5 percent, Boston said. The company recently scaled back on its sheer hosiery to give more space to Ellen Tracy, Anne Klein and Kenneth Cole socks and tights, which have been trending well.
Legwear should continue to be a growth category this fall at Broadway Stores, according to buyer Anne Fahey, who planned to order socks and tights from Hue, Liz Claiborne and Kenneth Cole and sheers by Calvin Klein Collection and CK by Calvin Klein.
This fall, socks are expected to lead legwear sales at Broadway’s 83 stores, she said.
The company is considering rearranging its socks and hosiery departments to give more floor space to socks and tights, which have been pacing business, she said. “We don’t want to give up any business,” Fahey said. “We want to get more business by refining what we have.”
Last fall, Jacobson’s allotted more floor space for socks and tights, according to hosiery buyer Kathy Hamilton, speaking from her office in Jackson, Mich.
Hamilton, who plans to visit the showrooms here this week, said her budget was even with last year’s, even though legwear sales have increased. Donna Karan, DKNY, Givenchy and Ralph Lauren are important resources, she said.
“Sheers bottomed out last summer. We’re seeing increases now,” Hamilton said. “Of course, socks and tights are still wonderful.”
Legwear sales are 7 percent ahead of last year’s at Hills Department Stores, according to buyer Donna Lloyd. Boot socks and trouser socks should continue to be strong at retail, she said.
Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Peds and Chic are key resources for three-pair packs, which retail around $4.
Expectations for fall business were particularly high at some vendors.
American Essentials, which develops socks under its own brand as well as the licensed Calvin Klein label, expects fall business to be at least 30 percent ahead of last year’s level, according to Jordan Lipson, president and chief executive officer. Each line is 25 percent larger than it was last year, he said. CK by Calvin Klein’s textured turn-cuff socks at $3.38 and American Essentials’ knee-highs at $4.28 were among the bestsellers, Lipson said.
Double-digit increases were planned at The Hot Sox Co., which produces its own line of socks and tights, as well as the licensed Ralph Lauren legwear, according to Gary Wolkowitz, president and director of design.
“I was surprised by the bullishness of some key retailers. They were more confident about the category,” he said. “Unlike last fall, there won’t be thigh-highs or any other key item that drives the business. There’s something almost threatening when one item is responsible for your growth.”
Among the new groups was Sculptures, the first body-shaper hosiery collection by Jockey For Her. The company expects the category to account for 10 percent of its sheer hosiery business and boost sales for the overall line, according to Stacey Nicholson, merchandise manager for hosiery. Available in eight styles, the line wholesales from $3.83 to $4.50.

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