By  on August 28, 2006

Swimsuit makers expect healthy sales this year, despite a range of potential pitfalls. Retail consolidation, unrelenting seasonality, exacting fashion trends, tough competition and licensing moves all pose potential hazards to swim companies, while quality, trend-driven merchandise and smart business plans serve as the remedies.

Many vendors exhibiting at the ISAM swimwear show at WWDMAGIC have experienced recent growth and are confident it will continue in the near term. They emphasized that business remains largely dependent on one crucial factor: the sun. With the summer sun shining, one-pieces, bikinis and cover-ups have been flying off the shelves at department stores and specialty outlets alike. Reorders are piling up.

“The fact that we are having such a hot summer has really helped my sales a lot,” said Amber DeLecce, vice president at Vix Swimwear, based in San Diego. “I can’t keep in stock what

everybody wants.” She forecasts that Vix’s business will climb 15 percent over last year.

The solid summer was a welcome turnaround from a slow spring, when rain and general gloominess in many parts of the country dampened sales. Customers who held off from spring break purchases have returned to stores in force. Across the U.S., swimwear sales reached nearly $2.9 billion for the year ended in May, according to the latest data available from NPD Group, an

industry research firm. That’s up 16 percent from $2.5 billion the prior year, a marked improvement from nearly flat sales the preceding period.

But even steamy weather cannot sell ugly swimsuits. Swimwear companies have been keeping a closer watch on fashion, a necessity as consumers pony up for suits that are stylish as well as functional. Fashionable swimwear for women in their 20s, 30s and older, which had lagged behind its junior counterpart, is on the upswing.

“Three or four years ago, juniors was hot as a pistol and missy-modern was not doing as well. Today, it is flipped,” said Howard Greller, president of the Blue Water Design Group, a

division of Gardena, Calif.-based Apparel Ventures Inc. At the July SwimShow in Miami, the company’s new Trina Turk Swim & Spa suits received an enthusiastic reception, and Greller estimates he will sell twice as many as originally planned.

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