G. Lieberman and Sons, Ltd sell Activskin® tights and other legwear, and are one of the leading brands in the men's legwear sector.
The first part of the interview was published recently on Hosiery For Men. In this second and concluding part, Steven discusses the retailing of men's tights, popular styles of Activskin® tights, the growing European market and the company's plans for the future.
It seems that most men's tights are sold via the internet. Have you had any success in your products being sold in conventional stores?
Our product line isn't really appropriate for stores for two reasons. First, the market is still very small, and stores aren't interested in having their inventory just sit on the shelves; they want it to move fast. Secondly, they would have to stock many SKUs (stockkeeping units, namely, style-color-size combinations) to offer all the styles we offer in all the variations we stock. Stores would not want to do that, and keep track of all that inventory and ordering frequently. We now offer over 400 SKUs. That's way too large of an amount for a store to handle, and it's not an attractive proposition for them. Just to test our theory, though, we had a Canadian chap who wanted to be an agent for us go to many of the clothing stores in Montreal; he could not generate any interest at all in their carrying men's legwear.
Which of your styles of tights and pantyhose sell particularly well?
It is an interesting contrast. In the USA, which is about 80% of our business, the styles with fly opening sell the best: opaque tights A849, A866, and A876, and sheer tights A677, A660, and the new A699 that we just introduced are best sellers. The Gerbe line sold well, too, considering the cost of those products. In Europe, just the opposite seems to be true, as the fly is not considered all that important. We've also tested a number of different colors, but black outsells everything else put together. In opaque styles, navy and brown are a distant second and third, and in sheer styles, beige and tan are second and third. Furthermore, the full support (compression) styles sell much better than the light support styles, but the non-support all-nylon A1730, is an exception and sells very well. Our unique thigh high stay-up stockings sell very well, and to our surprise, so do gartered stockings and our garter shaper. Some of our briefs, our bodystocking, and our loungewear sells well, too.
It's great that Activskin tights and pantyhose are now available from several European retailers. Is Europe becoming an important market for you?
Europe was always very important to us, even from the very beginning. In 1998, when we first got the idea to pursue this market, Wolford had introduced their “Waistsocks” for men – a line of elegant and expensive tights for men. We felt this ground breaking attempt to address the market niche was going to pave the way for less expensive but still good quality products, and we were anxious to compete in the European market. Fortunately, early on, we met and partnered with Legwear 4 Men, Hosieria, and others, and the list has grown. One of the fastest growing markets is Russia. They are coming on strong and our sales there are as brisk as their winters!
What developments can we expect in the future? Are you planning to develop and market any new styles?
Last year, in 2011, our time and effort was consumed with moving to a new web site platform. Our home grown web site was getting too complex, our web site manager wanted to retire, and we found features in commercially available sites that were very desirable. So we abandoned our old site and moved into a new one. It was not easy, as there was a long and sometimes perplexing learning curve in the transition. But we made it and our site today offers many advantages over the old one, especially in the area of security and privacy, ease of use, communications, credit card processing, order fulfilment and flexibility.
We just introduced our first new style in quite a while. It's A699 full support sheer tights with fly and matte finish, and so far the early reviews are very positive. We are working on a new concept of tights with a camouflage print, a new style of sheer tights with fly and with exceptionally good glide under trousers, and we're exploring how we can produce a premium product that will rival Gerbe's now defunct men's line, complete with flat-sewn seams, wide waistband, and fine denier yarns, to give the products a “European” feel. Stay tuned – 2012 will be a great year!
Steve, thank you. It has been great speaking to you and to. I am sure all Hosiery For Men readers will agree that it has been really informative. I hope Hosiery For Men can speak to you again in the future and also alert readers to new styles and products.