It turns out that hosiery isn’t just hot on the runways but on store shelves, too. According to a new study by NPD Group, sales of hosiery and legwear are up — and millennials have a lot to do with the increase.
Sales of sheer hosiery, socks and tights grew 3 percent, to $7.3 billion, for the year ending in May 2015.
NPD reported that sales to millennials for the entire legwear category were up 12 percent. For sheer hosiery — the portion that has slowed considerably in the past few seasons — millennials spent $482 million, accounting for 27 percent of total sheer-hosiery sales.
For women’s tights, millennials represented 45 percent of the category’s purchases. For men’s and women’s sock sales, millennials accounted for just under a third of sales.
It’s not surprising that style-conscious millennials are increasingly spending their dollars on hosiery. Big-name designers from New York to Milan have been showing novelty hose and socks as key components of their collections for the past few seasons. Buzzy millennial brands like Proenza Schouler and Rebecca Minkoff have made interesting legwear a staple of their seasonal looks.
Another notable finding of the report is that the vast majority of millennials purchased hosiery from larger mass merchants, while older customers tended to make their purchases at department stores. The majority of hosiery’s sales growth came from off-price and e-commerce/direct-to-consumer channels.
“Millennials are changing the game for hosiery, just as they are in categories throughout retail, but they are also playing by different rules,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group. “Traditional thinking and marketing approaches don’t apply to this consumer segment. It’s about being different, and marketers need to follow suit, even in a category with a strong heritage.”