With much of the world warding off the cold with boots, sweaters and jackets, it may be hard to imagine that it’s time to start thinking about beachwear. But ironically, February is the time that summer styles start to appear and vacation spots begin to book up.

Not surprisingly, the beach is the most popular vacation choice for Americans, according to statisticbrain.com. Forty-five percent of those who take a summer trip choose the beach over another destination, including cities (42 percent), national parks (21 percent), lakes (17 percent) or non-beach resorts (14 percent). 

The Swim Journal reports that active lifestyles will be a major influence on swimwear this season, as consumers want apparel that works for the gym, for a swim in the surf and to grab a bite to eat afterward. Activewear and sun-blocking fabrics are no-brainers. 

Marcia Cumberledge, vice president of merchandising for TSC Apparel (PPAI 174523), says, “Heathers are huge in cover-ups and tees, which are perfect for beachwear.  Also, new blends make the fabric incredibly soft, keeping beachgoers comfortable and cool.”

Female empowerment is another driver of summer fashion. Pointing to the Women’s March and the #metoo movement, the latest designs for ladies reflect clean lines, strength, boldness and sophistication. Animal prints, florals and metallics will be prevalent, as will understated neutrals such as nude and pink. 

Towels are having their moment in the sun as fashion statements, according to Tania Boon-Richardson, vice president of E.P.S. Solutions (PPAI 261789). “The utilitarian beach staple has been elevated to fashion statement status,” she says. “As more and more boutique designers jump into the beach towel market, trends are shifting from basic designs to photo-realistic prints. Promotional customers are looking for high-end, postcard-like images of actual locations and events as vacation remembrances and brand statements.”

Murray Siegal, CAS, director of marketing for Towel Specialties (PPAI 113150), agrees. “The current towel trend is toward multicolored, edge-to-edge decorating that is depicted on our ColorFusion towels. While we still produce a tremendous amount of tone-on-tone beach towels, ColorFusion is immensely popular and selling at an accelerated rate,” he adds.

And as the tide shifts toward a more casual society, expect the popularity of traditional beach footwear to continue anywhere the weather is warm. “Beach footwear has proven to be one of our most versatile collections of products because it appeals to a wide variety of customers—from resorts to schools,” says Mel Chapman, customer communications coordinator of Footprints USA (PPAI 280344). “No matter how far away you are from the ocean, flip flops and sandals are perfect for anyone who is looking for a fun and unique branded product that clients will use time and time again.”

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

As consumers cozy up to the fire and fantasize about warmer climates, beachwear will soon be top of mind. The following vacation trends hint at what travelers may plan to take along.

Getting Off The Beaten Path
According to Homeaway’s 2018 Trend Report, tourists are seeking out-of-the-ordinary destinations that combine adventure with amenities. They report that the demand for alternative accommodations has grown exponentially since the previous year’s report, with vacation demand for barns up 55 percent, houseboats up 40 percent and treehouses up 30 percent. The bottom line is vacationers want an experience slightly outside of their comfort zones and exotic enough to be Pinterest-worthy.

Mind and body wellness is a macro trend that is extending to all lifestyle segments. Wellness tourists seek spa treatments, exercise facilities, yoga classes, healthy meals and often, a community of fellow wellness-seekers.

Going It Alone
According to Drift magazine, solo travel, and especially female solo travel, is becoming more common. Women are becoming more comfortable traveling alone and pursuing their dream vacations, and more women are taking advantage of these trips to pursue learning opportunities such as getting scuba certified.

Eco Tourism
Consumers who are serious about going green are pushing the boundaries of sustainable tourism. Rather than throwing their environmental cares to the wind, sustainable tourists take their values with them when they travel. This means choosing transit and lodging options with eco-friendly practices, researching exactly where tourism money goes and how it is spent, supporting local businesses and embracing the local culture.

Spurred by a desire to give back, some travelers are trading in their sandals for work boots. The 2017 hurricane season and last summer’s earthquake in Mexico have generated countless opportunities for volunteering while also enjoying time away.

Extreme Vacations
If swimming with the sharks is your thing, there’s a vacation package out there just for you. You can also cliff dive, explore underwater caves, kite surf and a host of other activities to get your adrenaline going.

Thanks to plentiful options in entertainment and amenities for all ages, cruises are a popular choice for multi-generational families traveling together. Taking a cruise can also be an efficient way to visit multiple destinations while still allowing plenty of down time.

There Is Money In The Water

Motivated by his swim coach at Colgate University, 64 years ago Ed Gulbenkian founded Gulbenkian Swim, Inc. (PPAI 167218), which is dedicated to selling high-quality swim apparel and gear. A longtime swimming enthusiast, Gulbenkian breaks down the reasons why swimwear sells, and where to sell it.

Why swimwear?

Less competition
You won’t run into thousands of other vendors like those who are selling t-shirts, mugs, pens and hats. It’s a more focused sale with higher margins.

The fitness craze
Swimming offers aerobic exercise that benefits your entire body while minimizing stress on your joints.

It’s ageless
You probably aren’t going to be playing football or soccer into your eighties, but you can swim.

Year-round appeal
Yes, swim season is traditionally during the summer, but there are many opportunities to market these products in any season.

Swimwear Marketing 101
One of the most common mistakes in consulting with swimwear clients is to lead with just one item—most often a swim cap, says Gulbenkian. Consider the benefits of presenting an entire line of products, such as swim diapers, goggles, kickboards, rash guards, swimsuits and swim caps.

For starters, consider these markets:

  • Learn-to-swim programs—health clubs, community centers, recreation departments, schools and hotels
  • Lifeguards—clubs, homeowner’s associations and all of the above prospects
  • Competitive teams—outfit their members with everything from suits to sweats to bags
  • Corporate events—parties, incentive trips and triathlons

Case Study

Resort Incentive Yields Oceans Of Opportunity
A five-star resort that frequently hosts corporate events for Fortune 500 companies wanted to reach out to corporate guests to entice them to return for family vacations. The goal was for the guests to leave the company event with a tangible reminder of their great stay. A Greek-inspired beach tote combined with a lightweight kimono-style Venetian robe was the perfect choice to evoke memories of relaxation and pampering. As an added incentive, a spa discount for their next stay was included in the bag.

The promotion was a huge success, with a large percentage of the corporate guests returning within the year for a private stay. Also, the high-quality totes were used for shopping and running errands back at home, providing additional year-round exposure for the resort. 

Source: Southern Plus

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Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.