Swimwear is another category that floated along nicely during the pandemic. Sales surged with consumers stuck at home, but still looking for creative ways to entertain themselves.
“Just because people were quarantined doesn’t mean they were staying inside,” Kristen Classi-Zummo, director of market insights in apparel at market research firm The NPD Group, told WWD.
Many opted for fancy swimwear in an effort to engage in a little escapist fashion. Others updated their old suits, replenishing a weathered top here or an out-of-style bottom there. Sales of stand-alone pools and accessories, as well as yard supplies, also rose.
One doesn’t have to look far to see examples of this throughout the industry.
Total sales at indie swimwear brand One One Swimwear grew more than 337 percent in 2020, year-over-year, topping more than $4.13 million in revenues. The Florida-based company, which sells about 90 percent of its products Stateside, also has growing markets in Australia, Mexico and Canada.
Direct-to-consumer swimwear brand Left on Friday had a similarly successful summer, despite the pandemic.
“We came out of the gates hot at the beginning of 2020,” said Laura Low Ah Kee, cofounder of the brand. “In March, [at the start of the pandemic] business just kind of stopped. Then in the summer, more people wanted LOF. There’s an overall demand for beautiful bathing suits that make you look great.”
Industry heavy-hitters are also reaping the benefits. Fashion influencer Danielle Bernstein said her e-commerce platform We Wore What sold “a ton of swim” in 2020. “It was a really strong category for us,” she said.
American Eagle Outfitters’ innerwear brand Aerie, which also sells swimwear, recently surpassed more than $1 billion in revenues. Jennifer Foyle, chief creative officer of American Eagle Outfitters and global brand president of Aerie, told WWD in an exclusive interview that swimwear sales were “solid” during the most recent quarter.
“Shoppers love our swimwear,” Foyle said. “Everything we do is around quality. And people want to look good in swim. They want to know it fits well and they look great in it. We take a lot of time, building the quality, the prints, the pattern and just our fabrications. We’re becoming a go-to category in swim.”
It seems everyone is dipping their toes in the swimwear pool these days, hoping to grab share. And for good reason. In 2019, Allied Market Research predicted the global swimwear market would be worth more than $28 billion by 2024.
But that was before the coronavirus. While the first year of the pandemic might have left people in lockdown by their pools, creating a renewed interest in home activities, the second year ushered in an unexpectedly harsh winter. On top of that, many cold-weather inhabitants are still fearful of traveling, ending the need — at least temporarily — for new swimsuits.
Still, for many, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Santiago Velez, chief executive officer of One One Swimwear, said he’s optimistic as the seasons change.
“Right now, customers are buying,” he said.
Likewise, Stefana Tabacaru, founder and creative director of Tabacaru Swim, acknowledged that sales were slower than usual this winter, from November through January.
“But then I don’t know what happened,” she said. “When February first hit, we had a big rush. We also saw some customers wait until after the holidays to go away because it would be less busy. And now we’re seeing people shopping for their spring trips.
“People are starting to feel more confident about traveling again and things opening up and I think everyone is hoping for a return of some sense of normalcy,” she added. “It’s going to be a great summer.”
Ultimately, swimwear’s near-term trajectory will depend largely on how fast the vaccine rolls out, Classi-Zummo said.
“The pace of the recovery is starting to pick up faster than we had anticipated,” she said, but added, “The swimsuit market recovery will also depend on whether people feel comfortable traveling right away.”