Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Next week’s International Hosiery Expo should be a whopper.
Having already preregistered 8,000 people for the biennial event, the Hosiery Association expects attendance to be greater than it’s been for the past few shows, and for good reason: Lots of technological innovations have come along in two years, and the industry is searching for ways to attack issues like the steady decline of the sheer market and the tight labor market.
When the event gets going April 9 at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., there will be 275 companies represented. That figure is about even with the last edition in 1998.
But many exhibitors have requested larger booths — some as much as 9,000 square feet — according to Sid Smith, president and chief executive officer for THA.
“It’s been several shows since we had such strong preregistration,” he said. “People are really anticipating relevant technical innovations.”
Toe-closing sock machines, advancements in seamless knitting machines and new yarns are some of the things attendees will be looking for, he said.
In terms of challenges facing the industry, legwear executives are anxious to find solutions for dealing with the tight labor market, Smith said.
“The companies I’ve talked to are interested in the labor standpoint because they can’t find enough workers in the U.S.,” he said.
Executives are also interested in finding ways to use computer programs to tie together various procedures in knitting machines. In addition, the retail landscape is changing drastically due to shifts in marketing, labor and technology.
“Everyone is asking, ‘How do I absorb the shifting environment that I’m working in?” he said.
E-commerce is another issue that legwear executives are grappling with, he noted.
“In years past, businesses would get hit with one major fundamental change at a time. We don’t do that anymore,” he said. “It all takes place at the same time. There are a few weeks to adjust before we get hit with the next one.”
Encouraged that more retailers are expected to attend the show than in past years, Smith said their wanting to be more knowledgeable about product and the industry is “a healthy sign.”