Travel has resumed and consumers are finally heading on vacation. What does this mean for the swimwear market?
From pricing to sustainability and commercial product opportunities, we reveal five data-backed insights to help retailers plan lucrative future ranges.
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- With swimwear just one of the many categories impacted by price inflation, take cues from J.Crew and Boden and improve your product eco-credentials to maintain value.
• Ensure swim product descriptions are inclusive of your entire customer base. Consider phasing out “slimming” as a descriptive word, which has seen usage decline by 32% since 2019.
• The popular Coconut Girl aesthetic and debut of surfing at the Tokyo Olympics have firmly placed sportier swim styles on the radar. Recently backed by SKIMS, the rash vest is one to watch, with in stock options up 74% vs. 2019.
• Investment in recycled swimwear has accelerated at the likes of J.Crew, NA-KD and OYSHO, with +162% recycled styles retailing YoY. Noted on the former’s website, consider sharing tips on caring for swimsuits to avoid microplastic shredding.
• More retailers are expanding their third-party brand mix to diversify ranges and acquire new customers. Madewell currently stocks 14 external brands vs. four in 2019. Marks & Spencer has notably grown its branded offering, stocking Sosandar and Fantasie.
1. Entry Prices Are Increasing
PrettyLittleThing’s swimsuit entry price point has jumped by 100% compared to 2020.
With inflation and supply chain challenges continuing to plague industries worldwide, EDITED’s recent reports outline major categories impacted as well as 5 Considerations For A Winning Geo-Pricing Strategy. Swimwear is no exception, with several of our analyzed retailers increasing their entry price basic swimsuit offering vs. 2020. PrettyLittleThing stands out with the largest percentage increase, having stocked £5 swimsuits in 2020 compared to £10 being the cheapest option currently.
Prioritizing more sustainable materials is also a driving force behind recent price rises. For example, J.Crew has increased the price of its ruched swimsuit by 20% vs. 2020, with its new season design featuring over 60% recycled materials. Boden has followed a similar trajectory with its Kefalonia design now made from recycled materials and its price point inflated by 8% over the same period.
2. Inclusive Product Descriptions Are Essential
Mentions of slimming within product descriptions have decreased by 32% since 2019.
As consumers continue to challenge traditional beauty ideals and inclusivity becomes a critical priority, retailers need to ensure their swimwear ranges reflect the times or risk alienating customers. Alongside more inclusive sizing options and promotional campaigns, product descriptions are key for promoting and inspiring body confidence among your online customer base. While shape and fit remain important factors for purchase decisions, retailers need to ensure all customers feel comfortable within their products, whatever their body shape.
For example, slimming is becoming a less popular descriptor for swimwear across our analyzed retailers, declining every year since 2019. Marks & Spencer is of particular note, stocking just 13 products with the keyword in 2022 compared to a peak of 73 products in 2020. As part of this, the retailer has reduced the number of products featuring its Secret Slimming™ technology.
Period & leak-proof swim is an untapped opportunity
Specialist period and leak-proof label Modibodi diversified its category mix by expanding into swimwear in January. Made from recycled fabrics, it contains Modifier Swim Technology that “is absorbent, stain and odor-resistant for light bleeding, spotting or light bladder leaks.” Ruby Love and Knix also offer period swimwear, with the latter stocking options as part of its teen line, Knixteen, too.
While the market for period underwear has grown 273% YoY, investment in the mass market is non-existent for swimwear and highlights a real opportunity for expansion across age demographics in 2023.
J.Crew leads the way in stocking long-torso designs
Since 2021, the US retailer has significantly expanded its product offering and now stocks several swimsuit styles made specifically for people with long torsos. Options are available in the same designs and prices as its core collection, including its ruched bandeau and plunge v-neck swimsuit options.
Other stockists include Madewell, with six options available, followed by Simply Be with five.
3. Rash Guards Are An Emerging Silhouette
As watersports grow in popularity, active swim styles are key buys
As the 00s surf-inspired Coconut Girl aesthetic dominated SS21 and surfing debuted at the Tokyo Olympics, sportier swim styles have grown in popularity. J.Crew recently phased in its active swim capsule collection “made for swimming, paddling, surfing… all things (water) sporty.” Currently, 20 pieces are in stock, with long-sleeved suits and rash guards key styles within the collection. Elsewhere in the market, rash guards have been increasing in popularity, with available options up 74% vs. 2019.
Marks & Spencer has seen strong SKU movement for its monochrome abstract printed design (£35), with four-star customer reviews on its website. Madewell has also succeeded with its cropped design that “doubles as a supercute long-sleeve bikini top.” SKIMS also dropped its first swim collection on March 18th, with the range including both long and short-sleeved rash styles, which is likely to propel the silhouette’s trend status even further.
4. Investment In Recycled Materials Accelerates
Options containing recycled fabrics have grown 162% YoY
Retailers continue to overhaul their swimwear ranges and ramp up investment in more eco-friendly materials. There are currently 162% more styles featuring recycled materials retailing vs. 2021 and a significant 819% more vs. 2020. This shift has resulted in recycled options accounting for 36% of the current swimwear assortment, compared to 15% in 2021 and 4% in 2020.
As aforementioned, J.Crew’s entire SS22 collection contains textiles crafted from recycled plastic bottles, yarns and fabric scraps. NA-KD has also contributed to this growth, stocking over 280 recycled pieces in both regions – this compares to just 46 this time last year. OYSHO’s recycled polyamide offering has swelled by 265% YoY, noted across bikinis and swimsuits.
While options containing ECONYL®, nylon made from post-consumer waste products, and REPREVE®, a fiber made from recycled plastic bottles, have increased, the use of these repurposed materials still remains lower than those described as just recycled. ARKET and Madewell are currently the top stockists of ECONYL® and REPREVE®, respectively.
Although recycling lowers carbon emissions and waste, recycled synthetic materials can still be damaging to oceans and water systems due to the shedding of microfibers. Consider sharing tips with consumers on caring for their swimsuits to avoid microplastic shredding. J.Crew has included an infographic on its swimwear landing page detailing “how to care for your swimsuit… and the planet at the same time.”
5. Retailers Expand Third-Party Brand Portfolios
Madewell & Marks & Spencer increase their external branded mix for SS22
Acting as an avenue to diversify product mixes, capture new audiences and gain market share, more retailers are expanding their swimwear third-party brand portfolios.
Partnering with external brands can also enable retailers to stock and test merchandise that’s not typically bought in their range plan, such as Tu at Sainsbury’s selling wetsuits via the brand Banana Bite. There is also scope to build on eco-credentials by partnering with sustainable brands – as an example, Free People has advertised its range from Seea. Additionally, retailers can capitalize on key trends, as noted at Urban Outfitters last year, promoting Y2K swimwear from nostalgic brand Juicy Couture.
Frankies Biknis at Free People, LIVELY at Madewell & White Stuff at M&S
Marks & Spencer has notably increased its branded offering for SS22, stocking swimwear from the likes of White Stuff, Sosander and Fantasie. Madewell has also adopted a similar strategy, currently stocking 14 brands compared to just four in 2019. For the new season, it has introduced labels Seea and NU Swim, while continuing to sell LIVELY, Solid & Striped and Lemlem.Ensure your branded mix is communicated and positioned clearly to maximize exposure and attract new consumers. Look to Free People below who has a “brands we love” feature within its swimwear navigation drop-down menu.
Contributions by Katharine Cater and Venetia.
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