There is no comparable joy on this planet than to the days leading up to a vacation. Last minute work deadlines, no matter how demanding, don’t seem so arduous with that sunshine (and a frozen cocktail) at the end of the tunnel. As I write this, I am days away from a beach vacation — my first since 2019. I share this elation with over half of U.S. adults, who told NPD they plan on taking a vacation this summer. However, these long-awaited vacations are more expensive than before, and consumers continue to experience global and economic headwinds. How will discretionary, experiential categories like swimwear fare this summer?

Last year was a banner year for swimwear sales. Pent-up consumer demand, and more money to spend, led to a 23% increase in U.S. revenue for swimwear, with growth across all wearers — men, women, and kids. With people trying to make up for lost [vacation] time, revenge travel became popular, and swimwear was one of those categories that people couldn’t wait to splurge on once they felt comfortable going out again. However, the massive growth we saw in 2021 provides a tough comparison for 2022. Swimwear sales revenue declined by 12% from January through May 2022, versus the same period in 2021. These declines were mainly led by women’s swimwear, which is where we saw the largest growth last year. This year we may have the same desire to get away, but we are different consumers than we were a year ago, especially when it comes to cost.  

So far in 2022, the average selling price for swimwear increased by 9%, year over year. Plus, vacations have gotten more expensive — from road trips and airline tickets, to eating out and enjoying the sights, people will be spending more on their upcoming trips. With these factors in mind, if someone invested in a swimsuit last year, they might decide that it will be good enough to get them through this season, too. However, it’s surprising to see which price points are feeling the pressure: this year, women’s swimwear priced at $100 and over is the fastest-growing segment, while swimwear priced under $70 is driving declines.

There are additional pockets of opportunity for the swimwear market, as well. Boomers are the only generation growing its swimwear market share this year, which is in line with the spending increases we’re seeing from this demographic across the retail landscape.

Another growth area in swimwear is inclusive sizing. Spending on women’s plus-size swimwear grew by 6%, versus last year, while the remaining women’s swimwear market declined. A recent NPD survey showed that one-third of U.S. women, size 14 or larger, felt that there are not enough swimwear options in their sizes. There is opportunity to be had in these underserved markets.

This may be a challenging summer season for the swimwear industry; however, with the spike in summer travel, there is still opportunity for the market to capitalize on consumers’ desire to get away. It is imperative for brands and retailers to explore their entire consumer base since they could be excluding a growing segment, and potentially leaving money on the table.

As for me, clicking the “save” button for this blog is the last thing I will be doing before spending a few days on the beach. And yes, I did buy a new swimsuit.