June 1, 2018
Summer is only a few weeks away, and buzz about the season’s swimwear is spreading. While we do know that the swimwear market is projected to reach USD 276 million by 2022, that only gives a macro level view. In a world of e-commerce, the market is intertwined. Even though smaller swimwear and beachwear brands Seafolly and South Beach have their own website, they are listed on ASOS, Harrods and John Lewis too. Designer brand Melissa Odabash is listed on Harrods, while Ted Baker sells their swimwear products through ASOS, NEXT and John Lewis.
With different verticals of businesses – luxury, niche, designer, high street – releasing their own collections on different platforms, how does the swimwear market really look like?
The Swimwear Market For Summer
One of the most obvious reasons for the market’s popularity is due to summer season. The hottest phase of the year means summer vacations, and most choice destinations are beach-related. Popular online fashion sites such as River Island and ASOS have a dedicated section for ‘holiday clothes’. The selection mostly caters to tropical weather, and includes items that most would pack in a suitcase: sunglasses, hats, and of course, swimwear.
With over 13,000 SKUs of swimwear and beachwear products, four multi-label retailers – ASOS, NEXT, Harrods and John Lewis – came prepared for the season.
A quick glance at the chart above will show that all platforms have a high replenishment rate in May. The impact was more evident for ASOS, Harrods and John Lewis, as for March and April, the rates were below 30%. Harrods only replenished 7.33% and 5.61% respectively, before jumping to 91.5% in May. The rest bore similar resemblance. NEXT was the only retailer that had higher rates than the rest in the first two months. Still, it saw a drop in April, before rising the next month.
With almost 80-90% of stocks replenished, it is certain that all four retailers were in preparation for the next wave of summer shopping. While sellouts are usually the determining factor in a market’s performance, replenishments are much more practical here. It is vital that the retailers ensure ample stock supply, considering that it is not officially summer yet. If products go out-of-stock now, losses of sales may incur. This is because:
- It might take some time for manufacturers to produce and deliver more stocks.
- When a consumer sees that a product is out-of-stock, they might go somewhere else to purchase.
“The evolution of swimwear not only solidified its presence in the marketplace, it also proved that the same functionality works in various styles”
Now that the ‘when’ is established, what types of swimwear were frequently stocked?
Bikinis or One-Piece Swimsuits?
The evolution of swimwear plays a part in the industry. The swimwear market history can be dated back to the 1920s. Before then, swimwear were mostly below the knees. As the years go by, the cultural shift allowed hemlines to be raised slightly. By 1960s, bikinis were widely accepted by the public. The evolution of swimwear not only solidified its presence in the marketplace, it also proved that the same functionality works in various styles. From bikinis, one-piece swimsuits to burkinis, swimwear is no longer rooted to just one type. In a new age where matrix sunglasses and ugly shoes are the new norm, swimwear now serves more than its intended functionality. The apparel has been converted into a style statement, and women are even wearing it out in public.
Naturally, this gives brands and retailers a good reason to start stocking up on different types of swimwear. On that note, does this mean the UK retailers are really doing so?
Yes and no. While there was a variety of assortments, the focus was on bikinis. For both of the high street UK multi-label brands, bikinis reigned supreme. The similarities, however, ended there. The rest of the assortment had different rankings. For ASOS, the second largest category was mix & match swimwear, followed by beach cover ups. NEXT, on the other hand, preferred one-piece swimsuits for its second category.
The ratio of each swimwear category is heavily uneven. Bikinis covered almost half of the pie chart, while the fifth category for both retailers held a mere 3%. This indicates that high-street retailers are focusing more on two-pieces this season.
On the luxury end of the spectrum, there was a higher consistency for both retailers. The only difference between the two was their fourth category. Harrods opted for halter neck swimsuits, while John Lewis went for one-piece swimsuits.
The rest of the assortments were exactly the same, albeit with different percentages. Bikinis, similar to ASOS and NEXT, held the number one position here as well. The luxury multi-label retailers had more rooms for other types of products. 23% and 13% belonged to beach cover ups, while 16% and 11% for beach kaftans.
In terms of sellout rates, the out-of-stock sequence for all four retailers were in the exact order above. The only slight exception was John Lewis, as their plunge swimsuits lost out to halter neck swimsuits.
So, swimwear was highly stocked in May, and while there were different categories offered, bikinis were the top choices. What about the trends?
Which Styles Were In Demand?
Throughout the three months before summer, these were the few styles that went out-of-stock, and then replenished.
Image Sources: River Island Embroidered Triangle Bikini Top (ASOS), Corsair Corset Ruffle Swimsuit (Harrods), Navy Floral Bandeau Bikini Top (NEXT)
For all four multi-label retailers, florals were a popular stocking choice for the swimwear category. From 28th January to 15th April, the embroidered bikini from ASOS (pictured on the left) was on a sequential out-of-stock and replenishment phase, a total of 13 times each. The corset from Harrods, with a price tag of USD 476, went out-of-stock once on 18th March for about a week, and then replenished on 6th May.
Besides florals, other printed swimsuits, such as tribal prints, graphic prints and stripes, were popular choices too.
Image Sources: Salvador Summer Ruffle Swimsuit (Harrods), New Look Tropical Bardot Bikini Top (ASOS), Ted Baker Elesina Ruffle Cover Up (John Lewis)
Whether bikini, one-piece swimsuits or beach cover-ups, the familiar silhouette of frills and ruffles were present. The frill bikini top from Ted Baker (pictured on the right) was replenished once on 6th May, and then proceeded to face a stockout after 23rd May. For the ruffle bardot bikini top, the item went out-of-stock nine times in the span of four months.
Image Sources: Colour-Block Wrap Front Bikini (Harrods), PrettyLittleThing Contrast Cami Bikini Top (ASOS), JETS Infinity Mesh Overlay Swimsuit, Black/White (John Lewis)
Colour-block was another form of popular trend in the swimwear market. This is in contrast with the previous trends, as it is mostly solid colours. The bikini from PrettyLittleThing had five stockouts in the span of two months, and was replenished at the same amount. The one-piece swimsuit from JETS, on the other hand, went out-of-stock four times, and has not been replenished after 29th April.
So, The Swimwear Market Looks…
Data clearly showed that brands and retailers are gearing up for summer. They are well-prepared in terms of types, trends and stock numbers. As summer is inching closer, only time will tell if the business strategies will pay off. For now, it seems that the swimwear market is ready to set sail.