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China Daily Global / 2021-04 / 05 / Page009

Holiday demand boosts swimwear sales

By ZHU WENQIAN | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-04-05 00:00

Domestic travel rebound paves way for recovery of sector after COVID-19

With summer approaching and the COVID-19 pandemic coming under better control in China, more people are opting for seaside trips, going to swimming pools, and using other types of water-based entertainment to enjoy their vacations.

Balneaire, a Chinese swimwear company with sales that topped other brands in recent years, said it remained bullish on steady growth of swimwear products in the country.

This year, the domestic travel market is set to rebound at full speed and further stimulate domestic demand for swimsuits after a dismal last year, it said.

Shanghai-based Balneaire has decided to concentrate on the domestic market for now, with the pandemic continuing in most of the overseas markets, it said.

"The domestic travel market will see new breakthroughs as the epidemic has been brought under control in China, and seaside trips will see remarkable growth," said Wang Na, CEO and founder of Balneaire.

In February, a flagship store of Balneaire located in the Haitang Bay area of Sanya, Hainan province, saw sales revenue in excess of 1.5 million yuan ($229,000), indicating the growing popularity of trips to tropical areas.

The company believes the sustained travel enthusiasm will create new business opportunities. Since March, Balneaire has started seeing daily average sales surge by more than 350 percent on a yearly basis for all of its products.

"The brisk sales growth has proved that with effective epidemic prevention and control, people's lifestyles are returning to normal, and going on vacations is becoming an integral part of their agenda," Wang said.

Flight ticket bookings for the Tomb-Sweeping Day holiday have already exceeded the number seen during the same period two years ago, according to Qunar, a Beijing-based online travel agency.

Much of the demand has been centered on the tropical islands in Hainan province. Besides the resort city of Sanya and the provincial capital Haikou, bookings are also surging for hotels in Qionghai, Lingshui and Wanning, according to Qunar.

Meanwhile, the increase in air travel has reduced the seasonal impact of swimsuit sales in China. Before 2017, the peak sales period for swimsuits occurred in May, and in recent years, the peak period starts in April and lasts till July, according to data from Edited, a market intelligence platform.

"A variety of scenarios that are suitable for people to play with water and wear swimsuits have emerged, and it will stimulate spending on swimwear. The supply chain of swimwear in China has fully resumed after the pandemic, and the domestic market is gradually warming up," said Li Jincan, an analyst at the LeadLeo Research Institute, a market research provider.

"With more available scenarios to wear swimsuits and diversified appreciation of beauty by Chinese consumers, swimsuits are no longer the sole functional apparel. Seaside trips, outdoor events, fashion shows and daily life activities can all help create demand for swimsuits," Li said.

"Chinese consumers are pursuing increasingly high-quality and personalized products. The demand is expected to help stimulate the emergence of more high value-added products," she said.

Compared with their counterparts in Europe and the United States, Chinese consumers have been relatively more conservative. Swimsuit styles and choices of sizes by Chinese brands can better meet the demand of domestic consumers, she added.

In 2019, Balneaire held a fashion show in Shanghai, and it matched swimwear tops such as bandeaux with bottoms like jeans and skirts, which has provided more options to consumers.

Balneaire now has more than 50 brick-and-mortar stores nationwide. This year, it plans to bring its total number of stores to more than 200.

It has more than 10 stores in Hainan, and will open more on the island. In addition, it plans to focus on opening more outlets in warm places such as Guangdong and Fujian provinces.

The company said it would cooperate with major e-commerce platforms such as Tmall, JD and Vipshop, and launch a large number of promotional activities such as livestreaming sessions during the summer.

On its official store on Tmall, an e-commerce shopping platform of Alibaba Group, sales of Balneaire during the annual shopping day extravaganza on Nov 11 last year topped other brands in the swimwear category, according to the company.

The company said for swimsuits that people wear at seaside, the designs will mainly feature fast drying and sunproof functions, and two-piece styles. For swimming pools, it will mainly feature sporty styles and functionality. It will also explore more functional fabrics that are more comfortable and size-inclusive.

The company has enjoyed its fame at home and abroad. Its products have been exported to more than 10 countries globally, including France, Germany, Italy and the US.

Most of Balneaire's consumers in the overseas markets are women aged between 18 and 40, as well as those who purchase plus-size swimwear products. Besides, the company also sells accessories to male consumers abroad, it said.

Balneaire will jointly build a laboratory with fabrics company Lycra to develop cutting-edge smart fabrics for swimwear collections. The location for the laboratory has not yet been identified, said company officials.

Since the pandemic, Chinese consumers have been paying more attention to health, and the country is embracing a fitness wave.

Zhong Nanshan, a leading respiratory disease expert and doctor, is a strong advocate of swimming and says it not only provides strong individual immunity, but also is a good protective measure to combat several diseases.

Balneaire said the trend has fueled the popularity of people going swimming and doing exercises more frequently. It will develop both trendy swimwear and sportswear products such as yoga apparel, as it is bullish on sustained growth.

Currently, China has three large-scale swimsuit manufacturing bases. They are located in Xingcheng of Liaoning province, Jinjiang of Fujian province, and Yiwu of Zhejiang province.

As of last year, China had more than 15,000 swimsuit-making companies, with Liaoning in Northeast China accounting for more than 8,000 companies, according to Qichacha, a leading credit record investigation agency in the country.

Wu Yong in Shenyang, Liaoning province, contributed to this story.


Models in swimsuits produced at a factory in Jinjiang, a county-level city in Fujian province, walk down the catwalk. CHINA DAILY



An employee puts finishing touches to swimsuits at a factory in Huludao city in Liaoning province. NIU JING/FOR CHINA DAILY



A saleswoman displays swimsuits for an online promotion from Huludao city in Liaoning province. NIU JING/FOR CHINA DAILY

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