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The West European Market for Women's Hosiery
published in Issue 122, March-April 2006
The West European market for women’s hosiery—comprising nylon tights (pantyhose), stockings and hold-ups, knee-highs, and ankle-highs—amounts to 1.63 bn pairs a year, worth US$3.75 bn at retail level. This implies an average unit value per pair of US$2.30—although stockings are more expensive than tights while knee-highs and ankle-highs are less so.
The hosiery market has been in significant decline over the last decade. Between 1996 and 2005, sales fell by 28% in terms of volume, and by 33% in terms of value. Several factors have contributed to the decline, including the popularity of wearing trousers and jeans in preference to skirts and dresses, the trend for more hard wearing opaque products, technological advances in yarn which have also made the product more robust, fierce price competition from supermarkets which sell multipacks at low prices, and the movement of production to lower cost countries.
In this environment most of the major brands and manufacturers have suffered and there has been some consolidation of suppliers. Italy remains the largest European producing country and its exports are present in all the major country markets. The largest national market within Europe is Germany, followed by Italy, France and the UK. The only major country in which prices have not fallen is Italy—probably as a consequence of its highly fragmented retail distribution structure.
For the future, further falls are forecast in both volume and value, but they will be less dramatic than they have been in the last decade.
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