Hosiery has become muted and subtle in recent seasons, with sheers and the staple black tights gaining in popularity. But retailers can expect fashion-forward tights, stockings and hold-ups for AW15, according key brands in the market. Here, they discuss where else they think the market is heading.
On the panel:
Barbara Mara, export manager, Oroblu
Trudy Pijnaker, manager of operations, Leg Avenue Europe
Alison Bains, brand manager, Charnos Hosiery
Jane Gwyther, legwear marketing and product director, Pretty Polly
How has the hosiery market evolved over the last five years?
Jane Gwyther: Back in 2009, hosiery was just becoming a major fashion story. Bold, statement tights were bang on trend and Pretty Polly launched the mock suspender tight with House of Holland, which has now become a modern classic. Pattern hosiery was everywhere and worn by a new generation of young celebrities. Move forward five years and hosiery is still a key accessory, but the trend has moved to a more muted offer in fashion terms and the black opaque tight remains a core, staple wardrobe favourite. The last five years have seen the market remain level in terms of value, but volume has been in decline, with women buying less overall, while what they are buying has been a higher priced product. Pretty Polly has adapted very well to these changes by introducing a number of new ranges at great value and quality.
Barbara Mara: Over the past five years we have a dominance of colour and trend-led statement patterns with interesting details. Now we are experiencing a return to the more classic styles and have seen a renewed interest in our extensive basic collection.
Alison Baines: Brands in the market place have to face much more competition now than they did five years ago. However, we have seen consumers move towards investments items. They prefer to invest in good quality, styling, fit and products with added benefits. Sheer hosiery has also become very popular again, even within the younger age bracket.
How have yarns, materials and technologies changed in that time?
Barbara Mara: Technology has continued to develop and the yarns have been adapted to the new comfort and resistance requirements. This research has led to the creation of new techniques, such as creating a double-protected yarn.
Jane Gwyther: We are constantly looking at innovations and newness at Pretty Polly, and our core principle in our development programme centres around products that deliver a consumer benefit. With that in mind, new, intelligent yarns have allowed us to launch product into the market, such as Heatsense and Coolsense.
Alison Baines: Yarns are continually developing all of the time to improve fit, durability and appearance. Our Sideria style has become popular again, offering an ultra-sheer look with maximum strength. Run-resistant technology is also continuing to grow, and the Lycra Xceptionelle technology for the curvy consumer is now being recognised.
You’re currently promoting SS15 lines. How popular is hosiery in Spring/Summer?
Trudy Pijnacker: It depends on the area you’re in. In northern Europe, hosiery is very popular and light styles are easy to wear when the weather is letting us down. Sometimes you just need a nice pair of tights during spring or summer time because it’s too cold to go out without them and it’s too hot for jeans. This is why we keep a strong eye on our spring and summer styles. Colours and materials are lighter and this makes them easy to wear with a cute spring/summer skirt or dress.
Alison Baines: It isn’t as popular as in Autumn/Winter. However, sheers drive our business in the spring.
At what time of year do retailers tend to buy and stock hosiery?
Trudy Pijnacker: We see a peak at the beginning of September, until April. It’s the time of year when it’s really over for bare legs. The darker colours and heavier materials come back to life.
Barbara Mara: The most important season to sell hosiery is Autumn/Winter. At this time, we have a wide range of requests from our customers for tights
and leggings in different deniers. Our basics range from 7 to 120 denier, and include hold-ups, knee highs and block colour opaque’.
What benefits do retailers see from stocking hosiery?
Barbara Mara: Hosiery is a wardrobe must-have and customers are always looking for good-quality brands. If retailers can combine this with an excellent service, offering considered advice on all the styles and products available, hosiery has an excellent sale through.
Jane Gwyther: It completes an outfit, it adds value to the average basket size, it is a regular purchase due to its fragility and it’s a product worn nearly all year round. We know from research that hosiery is purchased on impulse and so it is always great to have hosiery in second points around the store.
How have consumers’ spending habits changed when it comes to buying hosiery, if at all?
Jane Gwyther: We have seen the consumer become more price aware over the last five years, but this doesn’t mean she only wants to buy the cheapest product; it simply means she is now demanding better value. That said, she values a consistently-good quality product and this is where Pretty Polly has been successful. She is buying less pairs overall, but she is paying a little more for them. I believe that the role of hosiery is changing from an essential, which it was deemed as 10 years ago, to more of an accessory.
Barbara Mara: Customers are prepared to invest in quality and our hosiery combines high quality with an excellent price point. With the development of the fashion collections, hosiery today has become a key accessory, just like handbags, jewellery and shoes.
What is driving innovation in the market?
Alison Baines: Well-being products are driving innovations – products with that added benefit, be it shaping, support, cooling or moisturising.
Jane Gwyther: We are proud to still make in the UK, in our own factory in Derbyshire, where innovation is all about driving efficiencies and improving processes without compromising on quality. The buyers have demanded improved lead times and we have been able to react to this because we are local to the market. In terms of product innovation, we look at novel packaging and new POS that can give the buyers options in how they display our product. We are also working on new technical innovations that are top secret, so they can’t be shared at this point in time.
What are your best-selling products?
Trudy Pijnacker: Basic hosiery always sells well. We mainly sell lingerie and what we see is that customers like to complete their sexy lingerie look with stockings or stay-ups. We also see that fishnets and lace tights sell well, these materials will always be popular with consumers.
Alison Baines: Our best sellers are 7 denier Bare, 15 denier Matt and 60 denier opaque tights.
Jane Gwyther: Pretty Polly has a large customer base so, often, the best sellers depends on the retailer and channel we are in. In grocery stores it is our gloss, soft-shine and 60 denier opaques that sell well; in department stores, it is nylons and naturals; and in fashion retailers, it is our opaques and suspender tights.
Where do you see the future of the hosiery market heading?
Alison Baines: I think new innovations and the revival of fashion and colour will inject excitement back into the category. We will see this on the catwalks over the next few seasons.
Barbara Mara: Today, our customers are asking us to provide them with a total Oroblu look, so we are launching a fashion collection, which will combine all the key assets of Oroblu – quality, affordability, comfort and style. There is an opportunity for hosiery brands to extend into different areas, utilizing their expert technology and specialist fabric and yarns.
Jane Gwyther: Long-term futures are difficult to predict, but we are starting to see small signs of a return for fashion hosiery. Opaques and sheers will continue to dominate the category, but we believe the emphasis will be more towards comfort features on top of great styling.