NEW YORK — Wolford AG has found a bright spot in the challenging U.S. hosiery market, selling bright-colored styles and fishnets last fall that helped boost sales by 18 percent in the first nine months of the fiscal year that ended Friday.
“The business driver as far as the U.S. is concerned is clearly that hosiery and other accessories have been very much in fashion for the last one and a half years,” said Holger Dahmen, Wolford’s chairman and chief executive officer, who replaced Fritz Hummer in January. Hummer had been in the post for 10 years.
The U.S. subsidiary accounts for 16 percent of Wolford’s total sales, and is the Bregenz, Austria-based luxury hosiery brand’s second- largest division. Dahmen, visiting the U.S. for the first time in his new role, said Wolford’s top priority would be to solidify sales.
“My first day of my visit here, I see more potential as far as the U.S. is concerned,” he said.
Global revenues for the first nine months of the fiscal year ended April 30 were $108.2 million, or 90.6 million euros at current exchange, down 8.3 percent from $118 million, or 98.8 million euros, a year ago. Among the factors for the decline were end-of-season sales that did not meet expectations and a lack of January orders, according to the company.
Almost half the loss was because of exchange rate movements, while about one-quarter was the result of the brand shutting three Wolford-owned outlets in Glasgow, Scotland; Florence, Italy, and Atlanta, plus 40 partner-owned boutiques. In the last year, the company opened 20 partner-owned stores worldwide.
Earnings for the nine months increased to $2 million, or 1.71 million euros, from $770,000, or 650,000 euros, a year ago. Cost cutting, such as reducing operating expenses and staff costs, aided the firm in regaining its profits.
Dahmen, the former president of Hamilton International Ltd., a watch company owned by the Swatch Group, was general manager of Swatch’s U.S. division from 1998 to 2000. He said with lower-cost operations in place, creativity and design would provide momentum for the brand.
“Besides the production and the quality that comes with it, creativity these days needs to be captured,’’ he said. “It’s very difficult to get, and you have to look out for getting fresh blood over and over again.”
Dahmen plans to analyze the brand’s image in terms of product awareness, and in doing that, intends to improve the look of Wolford’s point of sale starting with its stores. He said the sleek white and black interiors of U.S. boutiques are up to standard, “but I think overall, on a worldwide basis, I guess we could look a little better.
“But that is one of those details that will not make or break [the company], it’s a combination [of things],” he said.
— Emily Holt