We all had our forms of escapism during the pandemic. Some learned how to bake, while others re-decorated their homes. As for me? I splurged on aspirational, completely non-essential, shoes. Buying a pair of velvet vermillion platforms just made me feel . . . well . . . better. So, it really didn’t come as much of a surprise when one of the earliest apparel categories to rebound this spring was associated with aspiration and escapism. That category is swimwear.
Swimwear may have been far from our minds last year. However, as vaccines began to roll out, and pent-up travel demand hit an all-time high, swimwear found its way to the forefront of our minds (and purchase intent). Since the first week of March, men’s and women’s swimwear unit sales began outpacing 2019. When we look at 2021 so far (January through May), adult swimwear sales revenue totaled $2.7 billion, up 19% compared to the same timeframe in 2019. Not only are dollars and units both growing, but the average selling price for adult swimwear is up 5% compared to 2019. We have been dreaming of our next vacation for over a year, and consumers are allowing themselves to splurge a little on swimwear for their upcoming vacations.
Brands and retailers are taking note of this opportunity and are offering options across all silhouettes and sizes. For women, swim separates represent about one-third of the dollars spent on women’s swim for the year-to-date, and over half (54%) of the dollar gains. Alternatively, when we look at our sales data from Canada, the fastest growth came from women’s one-piece suits, a trend that has continued over the past few months. What’s winning here with these styles is personalization and versatility. Swim separates offers women the ability to personalize their fit and style. While a one-piece can also be worn as apparel — taking her from the beach, to the bar, and even out to dinner.
It’s important to note that swimsuits are not the only products that are growing in women’s total swimwear. Year-to-date, we are also seeing growth in coverups and swim shirts. This rise could be tied to the shift in sizing we are seeing post-COVID. In a recent survey from NPD and its partner CivicScience, a quarter of women reported being a larger size than they were before the pandemic. However, I also think this growth indicates her desire to treat herself this year. In the past she may have just gotten by with a pair of shorts, or a dress as a coverup, but this year she wants to splurge on a complementary coverup to complete her whole pool-side look.
This growth in swim is one more indication that consumers in the U.S. are ready to get back to life. I think swimwear was one of the first categories to recover because, like a pair of vermillion velvet platform shoes, it is a harbinger of good times ahead. We started buying swimwear early in the spring in anticipation of warmer weather and a post-pandemic life. People want to enjoy what they missed last year, and they are investing in their swimwear to do just that.