SIZING UP MOSSIMO’S SWIM LINE
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — This month’s debut of the Mossimo swimwear line at Target stores has sent ripples — not waves — through the industry.
While some swimwear executives expect the collection to bring fresh fashion to the masses, others aren’t convinced that the new combination will have a great impact. On the whole, however, they agreed that the move is particularly wise for Target.
The swim line is part of the exclusive licensing deal Mossimo signed with Target in March. The agreement carries a three-year sales guarantee of $1 billion for use of Mossimo design and its trademark. It also includes the fall rollout of sportswear.
Geared for winter travelers and college students heading for spring-break vacations, the Mossimo line will be offered through July at Target’s 980 stores and at target.com, according to a Target spokeswoman.
Reversible separates — tops and bottoms that are sold individually and can be purchased in different sizes — make up the bulk of the offerings. Separates retail for $15 to $25, with one-piece suits selling for $20.
Color photographs of young women swimming underwater in the new looks are being displayed in Target stores. There are also plans to team up with Seventeen magazine for fashion shows later in the year, the spokeswoman said.
Steve Tully, executive vice president of Quiksilver Inc., expects Target to take the separates trend, which has been a key look in swimwear specialty stores for the past few years, and run with it.
“With their Moss Singles program, Mossimo has been at the forefront of this trend,” said Tully, who oversees Quiksilver’s Raisins, Roxy Swim, Leilani, Radio Fiji, Raisins Girls, Teenie Wahine and Island Soul labels. “Being the strong merchants that they are, I suspect the folks at Target will successfully carry this separates trend to their broader customer base.”
Melisa Belinger, director of merchandising for Everything But Water, a national swim specialty store chain, said Mossimo’s move into Target offered a “fresh change,” giving swimwear makers the opportunity to “pick up additional dollars,” with Mossimo moving out of department stores.
Stephanie Hirsch, designer for Inca, said the deal should help attract crossover customers to Target, which will intensify the competition across distribution points. She said stores and vendors are going to have to offer more fashion and cater to the junior swimwear customer.
Geti Margolese, vice president of Manhattan Beachwear, the maker of Hobie, Surfside and VM Sport, was not so convinced that the deal will have much impact.
“We’ve spoken to some buyers and it doesn’t seem to be an issue,” she said of the Mossimo-Target team-up.
Margolese does expect Mossimo’s swim line to boost interest in the retailer’s other offerings because of the brand’s name recognition. As the producer of Target’s Xhilaration private label swimwear, Manhattan Beachwear has seen sales get off to “a very good start” this year, she said.
Lynne Koplin, president of swimwear firm Apparel Ventures, noted that junior swimwear has been heading toward a separates-dominated business for a while.
Swimwear has become more of a year-round business for older women, but that’s not the case with juniors, Koplin said. Sales of junior swimwear comprise the smallest portion of the swimwear market, with the greatest portion of junior sales falling between February and spring break, mid-March and mid-April. By Memorial Day, most merchandise has been marked down, she added.
Mossimo’s new swimwear should attract more department store shoppers to the chain and Target “will probably do well with it,” Koplin said.
But David Burnett, president of Liz Claiborne swimwear, disagreed.
“They’re not going to get new customers,” he said. “As Target repositions itself, new lines always have to come in. As a swimwear veteran, I know you have to revitalize and keep it fresh.
Jim Post, president of Body I.D., said: “Target is not the biggest player in the swimwear category. They are in other categories, but not in swimwear. I don’t think it will change consumers fashion trends. I don’t think it’s important enough.”