TRADE: Synthetic Sale

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One day last week flying columns of female New Yorkers stormed the hosiery counters of New York City department and specialty stores for the first big public sale of glassy, synthetic, much-publicized nylon stockings. In the words of one harassed clerk, it was "a madhouse." Elsewhere, in most of the hundreds of U. S. cities which shared the national debutx buyers were more philosophical, took their time about snapping up the latest addition to women's full-fashioned knitted hose.

Nationally advertised brands of nylon hose stuck to their opening prices of $1.15, $1.25 & $1.35 a pair. But nylon's Manhattan appearance touched off a price war on unbranded lines. It was started by Manhattan's big Macy's department store, which quoted the hose at $1.08 and $1.27. Bloomingdale's cut to $1.04 & $1.23. By mid-afternoon Macy's was down to 98∧ & $1.17, but Bloomingdale's stayed one cent under its competitor. For buyers, packed five deep at some hosiery counters, it was wonderful. Limited to two pairs apiece, they almost cleaned up New York's 6,000-dozen-pair allotment by closing time. For the stores, it was an all-time hosiery record with sales up 200 to 300%.

What helped the price war along was the action of Nylonmaker E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. in canceling minimum wholesale prices on the hose. Warned by recent U. S. Supreme Court rulings against Ethyl Gasoline Corp. and against twelve oil companies for fixing prices, Du Pont went further. The company waived all labeling requirements and announced that from now on any stocking maker could buy nylon yarn without a license.

Welcome as this was to unlicensed manufacturers, they knew that their chances of getting much of the synthetic yarn were slim. For the big Du Pont plant at Seaford, Del. can turn out in the next twelve months only enough yarn for about 5,000,000 dozen pairs of nylon stockings-10% of the annual women's silk hose demand. A second plant, now building, will not swing into full production for a year. Discouraging, too, to hosiery makers was the possibility of nylon's becoming a war material. Last week the U. S. Army was testing the yarn for use in making parachutes, powder bags, etc.