The big winner in the swimwear top 10 IS Authentic Fitness, with four lines: Speedo, Catalina, Anne Cole and Cole of California. Amped-up advertising and promotions as well as new product introductions have helped these already well-known brands gain more recognition.
Authentic Fitness is owned by The Warnaco Group Inc., which emerged from bankruptcy this year, and appointed a new chief executive officer, Joe Gromek, in April. Authentic Fitness, which includes Speedo and a designer division that encompasses the other three lines, continues on the turnaround trail.
Speedo, ranked at number one, is best-known for competitive swimwear, but has added more fashion offerings and new products this year in its girls’ and women’s swimwear and activewear lines. Accessories, however, has been Speedo’s fastest-growing category, with new products including a waterproof Mp3 player and an expanded footwear collection.
Catalina, a mass swimwear brand sold primarily at Wal-Mart, came in at number four. Catalina benefited from events such as in-store fit clinics at Wal-Mart, some attracting up to 250 customers. Anne Cole, at number eight, got a sales boost from last year’s introduction of Anne Cole Locker, a sportswear-inspired 60-piece swimwear separates line. Further on down the list, Cole of California, a line started by Anne Cole’s father, Fred, in 1925, is number nine. New designer Mary Beth Sales, on board since January 2003, is taking the line in a more fashion-forward direction, though its focus still remains on the traditional misses’ customer.
Jantzen, at number three, has been around since 1910. It was bought by Perry Ellis International from VF Corp. in 2002, dramatically improving PEI’s fourth-quarter financial results, as sales for the three months raced ahead 45.4 percent to $86.6 million from $59.5 million a year ago.
This year, Jantzen relaunched men’s swimwear and apparel, and it will introduce two new women’s separates lines for Cruise 2004 — for junior and contemporary customers.
In second place is Op, now formally known as the Ocean Pacific Corp, which doubled swimwear sales for 2002. Licensed by Apparel Ventures, swimwear labels are now segmented, including the original Op, a surf-inspired line and a misses’ line, Ocean Pacific, in stores since January 2003. The company will launch Seven 2, a separates line for 18- to 24-year-olds this summer. Licensed by Apparel Ventures, Op’s advertising budget is up 40 percent for 2003 over last year, with campaigns that tie in swimwear with Op’s fragrance line.
Also licensed by Apparel Ventures, Santa Monica, Calif.-based Mossimo, at number six, has extended its trademark license agreement with Target through Jan. 31, 2006, when Target will have an option on a two-year extension. This June, Mossimo will expand the swimwear collection for Target to include “Red Label,” a younger-spirited line than the existing “Black Label” line. Also by Apparel Ventures, Anne Klein, at number five, has added sexier styles, such as plunging necklines, bare backs and bandeaus, and more sportswear-influenced, versatile styles.
This year, the Redondo Beach, Calif.-based Body Glove International, whose swimwear line ended up at number seven, celebrates its 50th anniversary. With 12 microfiber groups in its Body Glove swimwear line, the company, which started out in wetsuits, is bringing back Neoprene fabrics from the Eighties. The launch of “Body Love,” a padded, push-up bra, has helped sales.
Coming in at number 10, The Esther Williams Swimsuit Collection, headed by the 80-year-old screen swim siren herself, has done well with best-selling retro-inspired styles, and is adding new textures and prints, such as florals and geometrics for 2004.
2. Ocean Pacific
5. Anne Klein
7. Body Glove
8. Anne Cole
9. Cole of California
10. Esther Williams