NEW YORK – Comfort is the most important issue in sock purchases, according to a consumer-research study sponsored by Monsanto Co.

Monsanto manufactures the acrylic fibers Duraspun, Acrilan and Sno-Brite, an optically brighter white acrylic that is its newest offering.

While the study addresses the differences between acrylic and cotton socks, the bulk of the survey was devoted to general findings in what consumers look for in socks and where they are most likely to make their sock purchases.

Conducted by Ziment Associates, a national market research company, the study covered athletic and casual dress socks. Approximately 400 men and women were interviewed in eight cities. About 70 percent were women, half as buyers of socks for themselves and half as buyers of socks for men.

One critieria for those interviewed was that they had to have purchased a pair of socks worth more than $2 in the last six months.

In one portion of the survey, interviewees were asked to rate the importance of 13 attributes of socks ranging from comfort to color.

After comfort, considerations in the purchase of socks, in order of importance, were: keeping feet dry, preventing blisters, not becoming stiff and difficult to put on after washing, cushioning the foot and durability. Price was 10th in importance.

Respondents were also asked to explain, unaided, what aspects were most important to them in a sock purchase. Comfort and fit were most frequently mentioned (26 percent), followed by appearance and style (14 percent), fiber (13 percent), cushioning (10 percent), durability (8 percent), color (7 percent) and price (5 percent).

“Relatively speaking, given all of the considerations on the list, price was not an immediate priority among consumers,” said James Iademarco, sock marketing manager for Monsanto. “People were willing to pay for top quality. It’s true that retailers who are competing with one another try to offer the best price points, but ultimately that issue is not a huge concern for the people we interviewed. Also, the people we surveyed were willing to spend at least $2 on socks, which is higher than the average sock price.”

He said that according to 1991 MRCA Consumer Diary panel data, the average price was $1.36.

The low price, he said, has much to do with the popularity of value packs sold in discount stores.

As for where consumers buy socks, 43 percent of those interviewed most frequently shop in discount stores, 25 percent in national chains, 10 percent in sport and specialty stores, 7 percent in department stores, 4 percent in retail clothing shops and 11 percent in other outlets.

Part of the reason the consumer is willing to spend money for quality socks is the expectation of longer wear. The study showed that most interviewees (41 percent) kept their socks between six months and a year.

On the average, athletic socks were kept for 9 months and casual socks for 11 months.