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Industry Apr 1, 2020 8 min read

The 5 answers to the coronavirus’ effect on the swimwear market

As vacations are canceled due to COVID-19, all eyes are on the swimwear market. We delve into what's been selling and the pricing and discounting strategies behind this category.

swimwear trends

The coronavirus outbreak has caused flights to ground worldwide leaving many consumers to cancel in turn vacation plans. Combined with Staycations as the new summer getaways and the cancelation of Resort Shows, trading is going to get a lot tougher for the swimwear market in 2020.

To help retailers stocking swimwear stay afloat during these challenging times, we unpacked how COVID-19 has affected this category, as well as how to refresh the trends retailers have already invested in to make them work out of season. Read on as we unpack everything you need to know about swimwear.

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Have arrivals slowed? 

As holidays are put on hold, retailers have pulled back on their new season swimwear offerings. In the US, Spring 2020 looked set to outpace 2019. However, by February, arrivals started to slow down with the total new styles for Q1 2020 down by 9% compared to Q1 2019.

A similar story appears in the UK, which saw monthly drops flatten out between February and March as retailers experienced disruption in their supply chain or became more cautious with deliveries as the virus started to take hold. In 2019, March was a key month for phasing swimwear in, while arrivals were down 18% this March.

What does the SS20 assortment look like? 

In both regions, bikinis are the dominant swimwear style of Spring 2020 deliveries, making up 65% and 68% of arrivals in the UK and US, respectively. Retailers are mostly buying into triangle and bandeau shapes, while cropped sporty styles see greater exposure in the UK.

In the US, bikini bottoms described with a high waist and a high cut make up the majority of the range, while UK retailers are investing in full covered briefs. One-piece swimsuits equal 23% of new arrivals in the UK compared to 18% in the US. There is more scope for the tankini in the US, which made up 7% of new styles compared to the UK’s 3%.

What’s actually selling right now? 

In Q1 2020, swimwear styles experienced a first sell out in the US are up by 20% YoY. The increase is owed to a spike in sell outs in the final week of March. The previous week was when the majority of retailers elected to communicate their new swim edits in customer emails, while the week before was when arrivals peaked. In the UK, overall sellouts for Q1 are down 27% YoY, with decreases noted for both bikinis and swimsuits.

Comparing sell outs month-on-month, they saw a slight pick up of 9% in March from February. Across both markets, prints outperformed plain styles with florals and animal as the most popular patterns. Black was more successful in the US, making up 30% of sell out styles versus 21% in the UK. Red, pink and blue were the top colors spanning regions, while orange thrived in the US and green in the UK.

Animal print

Red

High waist briefs

Ruffle details

Square neck

Floral one piece

How is pricing and discounting impacted? 

In the US, the average full price of swimsuits saw a 3% increase YoY, while bikinis were only $1 cheaper.

For the UK, retailers’ pricing was more affordable with swimsuits on average 14% cheaper than last year and bikini pricing also down 14%.

A greater proportion of swimwear is being reduced in the US this year compared to last year with discounts in mid-late March particularly to note as America becomes the nation with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19. Throughout March, the depth of discounting for swimwear was deeper than last year. However, it has now stabilized as new arrivals enter the market. Bikinis are currently the most heavily discounted shape with 30% of styles reduced and the average discount at 41%.

In the UK, the proportion of swimwear discounted this year outpaces both last year’s discounts and the US market. At its highest in March, 60% of swimwear styles were on discount compared to last year, where the highest depth was more conservative at 46%. With the aforementioned lower pricing strategy adopted by UK retailers, businesses need to be more careful with not discounting too heavily to preserve margins. We can see in comparison to 2019, retailers are holding back on reducing too deep over the past few months – the right thing to do, especially as swimwear isn’t moving as quickly as last year in this market.

What’s being communicated? 

With more products discounted across both markets, swimwear sales messaging is more commonplace in retailers’ communications. In March, J.Crew’s swimwear and resort edits were inundated with sale banners. A 50% off swimwear offer was included in its communications from March 13th-17th – just a day after its ‘new swim shop’ email. The retailer also advertised ‘swim styles at $24.50’ and ‘40% off warm weather picks’ on March 28th.

Boohoo’s swimwear advertising strategy also became more promotional-driven. Last year the retailer promoted ‘your getaway guide’ with minimal discounting. This year, communications included ‘swimwear from £5.’

Fashion Nova has pulled back on its swimwear communications too.  In March 2019 it sent six emails featuring swimwear, while this year it dropped to two. In the past, the retailer combined promoting swimwear with festival dressing. However, with Coachella postponed and other events canceled, these edits were noticeably absent.

Full Beauty’s offer shifted from 50% off to ‘buy one get one 80% off’. Interestingly, Lively’s communications are business as usual, centered on ‘planning your next vacation,’ putting its top items forward advertising ‘sell out styles.’

Looking ahead & future direction

Staycation

With self-isolation the new norm, consumers will be seeking the sun through any outdoor space – be it a backyard, garden or balcony. Newness can be injected through the use of ‘from where you’d rather be’ style communications, drawing on inspiration from the holiday destinations all consumers are dreaming of.

swimwear trends
Saks Fifth Avenue US Email 16 Mar 2020

Festival

Bookmark October for festival and vacation high season communications as Coachella’s postponed date will coincide with the UK Half-Term and closing Ibiza parties. In the meantime, many performers are taking to Instagram live and TikTok to engage fans. Think about how you can leverage these platforms to connect with the Gen-Z consumer and how to make swim and festival products applicable for staying at home.

swimwear trends
Lulu’s US Email 03 Mar 2020

Trends to last 

Animal prints have become a mainstay in retailers’ assortments and their success during these uncertain times solidifies it as a trend that will work even off season. Square neck shapes and sporty silhouettes will also tie into the wider activewear theme and are low-risk to promote now and in the future. With the delay in festival season, be cautious of dropping neons, earthy color palettes and 70s influences too early. Ensure phasing is controlled, so there is interest for customers now and in October if you can’t get into new stock. Don’t forget to use layering and cover-ups to work into Staycation edits and be sure to leverage social media platforms and influencers who will be stuck at home to promote trends and relatable content.

swimwear trends
Anthropologie US Email 29 Mar 2020

Sustainability

With the impact on the environment lessening as mass production temporary halts and flights grounded, there is a further focus on sustainability. Due to contact with the water, swimwear has been an area of innovation with materials. When consumers are out of lockdown, there will be a huge rush to be at the beach and on holidays. Retailers need to take this opportunity to promote local travel to avoid overcrowding beaches and added carbon emissions, as well as communicate how best to care for swimsuits to avoid shedding microplastics in the ocean. Look to Reformation including the GuppyFriend bag in swimwear communications.

swimwear trends
Reformation US Email 17 Mar 2020

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