Interview with Sally Kay

Sally Kay
Sally Kay
President and CEO
The Hosiery Association
The Hosiery Association

What kinds of improvements are required in the global legwear market?

There are over 7 billion people on the earth, that means there are close to 7 billion pairs of feet and legs. The challenge is ensure that as many pairs of feet and legs as possible are wearing some type of legwear product. The industry needs to continuously leverage technology both machinery and raw materials, to meet the growing demands of consumers. Smart companies are those that offer solutions to a problem, i.e. comfort, enhance performance, support, odor protection, moisture management and moisturizing, repel insects, heal wounds, UV protection from the sun, etc. Companies that embrace the philosophy of “I’m going to design a product and hope the consumer likes it,” are quickly on the same path as of the dinosaur...they just don’t know it yet.

USA market has been trying to recover from the recession. What can be expected from the legwear market?

The US legwear market has been somewhat insulated by the recent economic volatility. In fact, some categories have flourished. Fashion driven products for both men and women are now available in a variety of retail distribution channels, which means that there are also a variety of price points from which to choose. Men are using socks to accessorize their outfits both business and casual, in a similar fashion to ties. Women are selecting different types of hosiery products to accessorize the same dress/suit, but the various types of hosiery can completely change the look. It is far more cost effective to purchase most legwear items than it is to be a new dress, skirt, pants, suit for men/women. The athletic sock market has also done well. Many are choosing to exercise more outdoors as opposed to spending money on a gym membership, walking/biking to work/store rather than taking a cab/driving-costs associated with gas/car maintenance.

What are the challenges faced by the legwear industry?

The challenges faced by the legwear industry frankly depend on the particular product type. For instance, the ladies’ pantyhose hosiery industry has consolidated since it is no longer required in the workplace as it once was in the 80’s. New segments, such as shaping garments, capri length hosiery, etc. have consequently evolved. Fashion hosiery is popular among younger consumers but the sales of the traditional waist high garment will not return to those which the industry experienced in the 1970’s through the late 1990’s. The companies who produce high-end products for the consumer who can afford luxury hosiery will remain competitive, but that market share is very small. Those companies that make and sell socks in the “white goods” or commodity business are constantly faced with downward price pressure from the retailer on side and the rising costs of raw materials on the other squeeze the manufacturer further, who already operates on razor thin margins. Over 75% of all legwear products in the US are currently sold through the mass retailers. Industry needs to remember is that the US consumer only represents 5% of the global marketplace. That means there is an additional 95% who has market potential. Companies need to be proficient in exporting their goods to new markets. There are those, too, who need to learn how to market the products they make to sell within their own domestic marketplace. After all, we are creatures of habit and change can be very difficult to experience. The companies who are willing to change, adapt and be flexible in their operations are the ones will who not only survive but thrive.

What have been the major achievements by The Hosiery association in past two years?

For over 108 years The Hosiery Association (THA) has been solving problems for its member companies and served as the backbone for the legwear industry. THA is the only international nonprofit trade association exclusively representing the specific needs of legwear companies that produce and sell more than 90 percent of the products in the US. Supplier companies to the industry also play a major role in membership and sponsorship of THA.

How THA helps its members?

THA implements its mission through the following tactics: -Proactively representing its members' concerns and positions before all branches of government on a continuous basis. -Communicating information to promote its members worldwide. -Fostering an environment that is conducive for members to exchange best practices and technological innovations. Legwear manufacturers, marketers, distributor and suppliers who are striving to improve their business and the industry as a whole will find that THA services will benefit and assist them in the following areas: -Legislation/Regulations -Technical -Webinars & Conferences -Publications/Public Relations
Published on: 06/05/2013

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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