Smiling Strawbridges Wear Green Socks The Holiday Hosiery Indicator.

Posted: December 23, 1994

Wall Street follows the Dow Jones average. The Japanese watch the Nikkei. Economists study the Consumer Confidence Index. Commodity traders monitor hog futures.

At Strawbridge & Clothier, employees rely on the Christmas Party Sock Indicator (CPSI).

Here's how it works:

At the Center City store's employee Christmas party, held before the retailer opens for the day, top-ranking Strawbridge family members skip their usual conservative business black socks and deck their feet with socks of green or red. Astute observers of the CPSI can analyze the socks and figure out how the important Christmas selling season has gone.

Two red socks are not so good; two green socks are very good. The best is one red and one green - and no socks means the Grinch stole Christmas.

At the annual party yesterday, Francis Strawbridge, the chairman of the board, donned two green socks.

Stockton Strawbridge, 81, the retired chairman, started the tradition in the 1960s. Yesterday, to honor employees for achievements in customer service, he wore one red and one green. So did his great-grandson, Samuel Braxton, seven months old, who took a cue from upper management.

Peter Strawbridge, the company president, hedged his bets.

"I'm sporting two green socks with a little bit of red in them," he said. His socks, which he is sure were purchased for him at Strawbridge's, had red Santa Claus faces on a green background.

So far this holiday season, customer traffic has been good, Peter Strawbridge said. But many discounts have been offered, which could cut profit

margins, he added. That's why yesterday's sales results along with today's and tomorrow's will be crucial to the bottom line.

"It's good and, hopefully, it will get better," Peter Strawbridge said. ''I'm waiting for the next three days."

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