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Hosiery pulls its socks up

The recent popularity of footless tights and opaques, as well as the emerging trend for over-the-knee socks, is finally helping to lift the hosiery market out of its 10-year slump

After almost a decade of decline, hosiery sales on the high street are soaring, with over-the-knee socks emerging as the accessory of the season.Last Friday was National Stockings Day and high street retailers certainly had reason to celebrate, with many chains reporting double- and triple-digit growth on last season as hosiery gets back in fashion.

According to research group Mintel, hosiery sales picked up last year, with the market growing to £272 million from £263m the previous year. This year it is expected to be worth £279m. But this is still down on 1998, when the market peaked at £398m.

Mintel adds that tights account for 70% of hosiery sales by volume and 74% by value, but these figures have dipped slightly thanks to the popularity of knee-highs, the only category in the hosiery market that has not slipped since 2002. The category accounts for a fifth of the market’s value and its growth, according to Mintel, has been driven by the ongoing popularity of trousers. Sales of knee-highs, which also include socks, have grown by 11.8% between 2002 and 2006, with 57 million pairs sold last year.

Knee-highs have now been reinvented on the autumn 07 catwalks, with the likes of Prada and Miu Miu unveiling over-the-knee woollen socks as a key accessory for the season. This has prompted high street retailers to follow suit, with footwear chain Kurt Geiger launching socks for the first time this season. The retailer has sold 6,000 pairs of wool socks so far for autumn 07 and expects to average about 400 pairs per week.

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