Summer Travel Is Up but Swimwear Sales Are Down

·3 min read

July and August are prime time for summer vacationers in the U.S., but some travelers aren’t packing up new swimsuits for their getaways as they did last year.

With pandemic-related travel restrictions largely vanished nationally, many consumers are gearing up to take a break from the working life to unwind away from the daily grind. Netflix-inspired jaunts, splurge stats and bucket-list trips are among this summer’s travel trends.

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In a recent survey conducted by The NPD Group, half of the respondents indicated that they will be taking a vacation before Labor Day. Designers, retailers and swimwear brands competing in the women’s area are vying for market share in what is reportedly a $5.2 billion industry. Several nontraditional swimwear labels like Kim Kardashian’s Skims have jumped into the pool, so to speak.

Swimwear manufacturers had a lot to celebrate last year, thanks to the category posting a 23 percent gain in U.S. revenue. All those months of self-isolation, WFH and stay-at-home measures led to a boost across the board for men, women and children. Along with the pent-up demand, some shoppers had more money to spend on their swimming attire. Swimsuits were a key item for all those revenge travel trips, according to the NPD Group’s director, apparel industry analyst Kristen Classi-Zummo.

This summer isn’t quite so sunny when it comes to swimwear sales. For the first half of this year, swimwear sales have dropped by 13 percent compared to the same selling period last year. Women’s swimwear was the leading reason for that decline. One possible bright spot — depending on whether preference or predicaments like sourcing issues caused the change — was the upswing in the average selling price by nine percent. That said, many other aspects of vacationing have also risen, including gasoline prices, hotel stays and airline tickets.

International flights are up 31 percent and domestic ones have hiked up 25 percent compared to last year, according to Kayak.com. Swimwear-suitable locales like Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain are popular with some summer vacationers, according to Hopper’s Hayley Berg. Boohoo has taken an anticipatory approach to summer travel by debuting a destinations wardrobe with a dedicated area for Miami, a busy port of call this summer.

With inflation, recession risks, job security and housing costs weighing on some shoppers’ minds, some may prefer to use whatever swimwear they bought last year. One change of pace is the fact that women’s swimwear that retails for $100 or more is the fastest-growing category. Conversely, swimwear retailing for less than $70 is fueling drops in sales, according to NPD.

From a demographic viewpoint, Baby Boomers are the only generation that is bolstering 2022 swimwear market share. That is consistent with the group’s increased spending throughout retail, according to NPD.

Inclusive sizing and plus-size swimwear presents another opportunity in pool- and ocean-friendly garb, with sales up 6 percent year-over-year. NPD said a recent survey indicated one-third of U.S. women, who wear a size of 14 or larger, felt there are not enough swimwear options for them.

Given the spike in summer travel, Classi-Zummo advised brands and retailers to explore their entire customer bases. She was not immediately available for further comment Tuesday but had indicated that a summer sojourn was in the works complete with a new swimsuit.

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