Women’s swimwear growth heads upstream
The fashion market continues to wade through tough economic waters, with countless sources relaying that consumers are now reining in spend on material possessions and choosing to spend their money on experiences, like holidays. The latest ONS Travel Trends report* states that the number of overseas holidays taken by Britons rose by 8% during 2016, and spending topped £70m for the first time. While fashion retailers initially saw this as another obstacle for them to overcome, the market has actually experienced a bounce back in some categories which correlate with increased holiday expenditure.
The latest Kantar Worldpanel data (for the 52 weeks to 9 April 2017) finds women’s swimwear has experienced accelerated growth over the past year, and offers an insight into what is driving this great performance. The market is up 7.2% this year, compared with only 1.2% in April 2016, and is buoyed by rising prices. With the weakened pound impacting clothing sales, retailers are also seeing price growth at a total clothing and footwear level, but swimwear is climbing faster with prices up 2.4% year on year, compared to 0.8% across the total market.
So with consumers buying swimwear more often, does this mean that swimwear is no longer seasonal? It does seem that with more people holidaying all year round, especially in the winter, swimwear is not a seasonal category anymore. Currently, just over 50% of all women’s swimwear is purchased between May and July, however the share of swimwear purchased in August and September increased by 3.5% since last year to account for 18% of all purchases. Also, March of this year saw the highest growth rate (9.6%) for the category in three years, showing that consumers want to be able to buy throughout the year.
Swimwear, like activewear, is also benefitting from shoppers purchasing the category online. Traditionally, swimwear has been an in-store purchase, but the online channel now accounts for 35% of all women’s swimwear spend. The channel is benefitting from price growth as online shoppers spend £17.53 on average per item in the category - £5.48 more than shoppers spend in store. The category is also seeing pureplayers squeeze into traditional retailers’ space. For example, ASOS is ranked 11th in total women’s swimwear and is close to breaking into the top 10. In online, ASOS dominates the multichannel retailers with 8.1% market share points and ranks in first place.
With continued growth in women’s swimwear, and the movement of consumer spend toward experiences, fashion retailers should look to how they can capitalise on this trend, rather than fight against it. Given that swimwear bought for holidays accounts for 85% of the category’s growth, they should invest in swimwear ranges all year round, recognising that consumers are holidaying outside of the summer months. As a quick win, retailers can do this online, creating a holiday destination in a virtual setting. While swimwear will not reverse the fashion market’s fortunes on its own, it is an example of a category that is responding to with modern consumer behaviour to stay ahead of the curve.
* ONS Travel Trends 2016, retrieved 15:05 25 May 2017. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/leisureandtourism/articles/traveltrends/2016