Stockings too tiresome for busy British women

LONDON - They have been a symbol of glamour for decades, but it appears the bottom has now fallen out of stockings sales in Britain.

Once associated with sophistication, they are now considered tiresome and inconvenient by the modern, busy, working woman, a survey has shown.

Instead women are choosing leggings and tights, preferring the look of actress Sienna Miller and Kate Middleton, the former girlfriend of Prince William.

The growing number of women wearing trousers has also helped consign stockings to the bottom of the drawer beneath the petticoats.

Sales of stockings halved in the four years to 2006 to five million pounds ($12.9 million) and now account for only two per cent of total hosiery sales, figures collected by retail research group Mintel showed.

Tights are the biggest sellers, accounting for 74 per cent of sales, with knee-highs, including foot socks and leggings, gaining in popularity, at 18 per cent.

Even hold-ups, self-supporting stockings which do not need suspenders and which were slow to take on at first, are now outselling traditional stockings.

Stockings and suspenders are now the preserve of the more mature woman, and the bedroom, Mintel said.

"There has been a gradual move away from stockings in favor of hold-ups," the report said.

"Regular stocking wearers tend to be older women and, as the traditional consumer base naturally shrinks, it is not being replenished."

They remain popular for romantics though, with many women turning to them for bridal wear and Valentine's Day.

Hosiery sales, in general, are on the up, with women choosing to wear leggings combined with skirts and dresses, and opaque tights.

After almost a decade of decline, sales of hosiery rose in 2006 and are expected to continue into 2007 when the market is estimated to be worth 279 million pounds, Mintel predicted.

"The big story for 2006 was the strong growth in demand for footless tights," the report added.

"The 1980s throwback emerged on the fashion scene in March 2006 and demand remained strong for the rest of the year.

"Opaque tights received widespread media coverage as a favorite of Kate Middleton."

- REUTERS

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