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LONDON (Reuters) - Cash-strapped consumers in austerity Britain trying to hold down rising heating bills are rushing out to buy socks designed to be worn in bed, according to UK manufacturer HJ Hall.
HJ Hall said it would normally sell around 3,000 pairs of bedsocks a month between October and February, but this October sold more than 9,000 pairs. 86 percent of the people it polled said they were buying the socks to delay putting on the heating.
Fresh rises in British gas and electricity prices this autumn have even persuaded younger consumers such as newlyweds and students to turn off the radiator and cosy up with the kind of passionless nightwear that granny used to swear by.
"We have noticed that a lot of the customers are younger than our normal middle-aged demographic - men and women in their 20s and 30s who are really feeling the pinch," HJ Hall Director Anton Jenkins said.
Founded by "Honest" John Hall in Hinckley, Leicestershire in 1882, the family firm's original aim was to provide warm, long-lasting hose for the local farming community. Now it's ramping up bedsock production to meet demand.
Bedsocks have also been given a boost by celebrity endorsements, with former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham revealing she pulls on woolly socks as part of her bedtime beauty routine.
Energy providers have been in the firing line this autumn, accused of exploiting consumer confusion with a difference of over 300 pounds ($480) between the cheapest and most expensive tariffs on the market, according to uSwitch, a price comparison service.
Britain's energy regulator Ofgem stopped short of endorsing Prime Minister David Cameron's pledge to force suppliers to give their cheapest tariff to consumers, so canny householders are voting with their shivering feet.
"We have found that this coincides with a summer which has not offered us the greatest weather so people are feeling the onset of autumn and winter slightly more intensely than they would normally do," Jenkins said.
"They want to feel cosy but perhaps are even more reluctant than usual to switch the heating on."
($1 = 0.6255 British pounds)
Reporting by Claire Milhench, editing by Paul Casciato