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Resort/Swimwear: Holiday Cheer

Americans are traveling again, and buying new wardrobes to take along.

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An uptick in Americans’ vacation travel has been good for the swim and resortwear business.

Coming off a strong fall selling season, resort and swimwear companies from Warnaco and XOXO to Michael Simon and flip-flops maker Havaianas maintain bright outlooks for the upcoming resort and spring seasons. Companies said that despite the war, the upcoming presidential election and concerns relating to the euro, consumers are traveling and buying vacation clothing. Indeed, 68 percent of United States adults traveled for business or pleasure last year, according to the Travel Industry Association of America, which also expects leisure travel to grow by 3 to 4 percent this summer.

Manufacturers expect this positive momentum to continue and are upbeat about their prospects.

“We feel extremely optimistic about the 2005 season,” said Lana Todorovich, vice president of branded sales at Warnaco Swimwear, which includes Anne Cole, Anne Cole Locker, Nautica, Choice Calvin Klein, Cole of California and the newly launched Anne Cole Studio. Next July, the company also plans to launch Michael Kors for the 2006 cruise season.

“There are two reasons for our optimism: We are coming off a successful season, and our retail performance is strong. The number one retailing style in the country was the Anne Cole dot camikini. It was a top performer the minute we shipped it in November, and we continued shipping it through June.”

HIGH HOPES

Banking on the success of the camikini, Todorovich said the company will feature similar styles at Anne Cole for 2005. “We’re coming off a very big success,” she added. “On the NPD report, we had six out of 10 top-performing styles for spring ’04, and that’s current retail sales.”

A second priority at Warnaco, Todorovich said, is to work on managing each brand and to maintain focus and differentiation between diverse product categories.

“We are a diversified company, and I like to think of us as a swimwear mutual fund,” she said. “We were top-performing last year because of the talented and innovative people working at the company and our business strategies. I believe we’re ready and poised for growth.”

This story first appeared in the August 30, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Echoing that upbeat vibe, U.S. Gottex president Linda Sassoon said Gottex is also positioned well for 2005, and the company has high hopes for the next cruise and spring season, she noted.

“We’re seeing significant increases of anywhere from 25 to 50 percent on the opening cruise orders,” Sassoon said. “People are traveling, and there’s no indication that people are reacting to terrorist threats and the economy.”

In terms of its swimwear collection, Sassoon said the company has gotten a great reaction to the collection and that it’s being reflected in the orders.

“I’d say we’ll end up about 20 to 25 percent ahead this season,” Sassoon said of Gottex, which has a strong presence at retail in the Southeast, on the West Coast and in the Northeast. “It’s going to be a healthy increase over last year, and it’s a function of the product. People are starting to see that business is turning around. People are getting back to their earlier routines of travel. We’re looking to be in a very good position now.”

Sassoon added that, at WWDMAGIC, the company would like to open some new accounts and is focused on new specialty store accounts that might be adding swimwear to their assortments.

NOVEL IDEAS

Following a business transition that commingled swimwear with its sportswear collection, things look positive now for Michael Simon. “Two years ago, we had a fantastic, novel swim collection, and today’s challenge is that you just need more of that,” said designer Michael Simon. “Swim has been injected into our clothing collection, and we’re offering swim, but now it works together with the collection sportswear.”

Simon said that his product tends to be a fun impulse buy that doesn’t seem to be affected much by bigger, weightier issues such as the economy, elections or the euro. He expects 2005 growth of at least 20 percent over the company’s current $25 million in sales.

“Business now is good,” Simon said. “As a company, we’re much more updated. If you’re going to swim the English Channel, don’t bother with our swimwear. At the pool and afterward, that’s where we come in.”

Simon said his goal for WWDMAGIC is to show the full collection, and by doing that, he believes the product will sell itself. “I have no money goal [for the show],” he said. “We are targeting boutiques, though.”

Havaianas public relations and marketing manager Angela Schutt said the company is expecting to have a great turnout at WWDMAGIC. It’s the first time the company is exhibiting at the show, and the brand hopes to increase business and expand the line into more children’s retail locations.

Havaianas, which means “Hawaiian” in Portuguese, was founded in Brazil in 1962. The company has seen a positive sales streak for 2004 and expects the same upbeat trend to continue into resort and spring.

“There is a following for the brand, and it’s really taken off the past year,” said Schutt. “In the past, flip-flops were worn pretty much on the beach, and now they’ve made the crossover to city streets and have become a necessity in your closet. Since the brand features a diverse color palette, people are buying them in multiple pairs to match all their outfits.”

STORMING THE BEACH

A bright forecast for resort and spring is also on the menu at XOXO, whose sell-throughs have been “well above average,” said Kitty Blincoe, creative director of the brand.

“The regular sell-throughs are 3 to 4 percent, and we were selling at 10 to 13 percent,” Blincoe said.

The company has two swimwear lines now, one a bit younger and the other a bit more sophisticated. Blincoe said the company decided to feature two different lines in order to attract more department store business.

“Right now our business has increased since last year significantly,” she said. “We’re looking forward to maintaining our specialty and boutique business and reclaiming our place in the department store world. I think business will be good, and the reaction has been strong for spring ’05; I would say we’ll probably do at least a 20 percent increase.”

At Oleg Cassini Sport, vice president of sales and merchandising Amy Kahn expects business to increase from $25 million in estimated sales for 2004 to $100 million in estimated sales for 2005.

“Detail-driven, colorful items are what our consumers want,” said Kahn, “And more and more women are looking for easy-care casual clothing with an updated look.”

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