The Australian swimwear brand hopes to turn bikinis and swimsuits into a considered purchase for UK women
From one-piece swimsuits to tropical-print Brazilian-cut tankinis, when it comes to buying swimwear, Anthony Halas, chief executive of Australian swimwear giant Seafolly, says British women are like no others.
UK shoppers buy an inordinate amount of own-label high street swimwear compared with their global consumer peers. Halas says: “There is a huge percentage of customers buying private label high street swimwear, but outside of the UK, private label is perceived as cheap, cheap, cheap.”
In Seafolly’s native Australia, the brand has a 40% share of the swimwear market - it has it pretty much sewn up - and it is lucrative, with Australian women investing in four to five swimsuits a year.
However, in the UK it is a different story, with a last-minute dash the day before a holiday abroad typifying many a swimwear purchase. It’s a tough ask but Halas wants to replicate Seafolly’s home market stronghold in the UK, which would mean stealing a march on high street giants such as Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser.
The recent heatwave prompted the brand’s 100-strong UK stockist base to place “thumping” repeat orders, which subsequently boosted Halas’s faith in the potential of the market.
“Buyers see swimwear as a risky product category. Because of its seasonality they buy the bare minimum,” says Halas. “We sell a lot of separates and have a strong stock-replenishment business and stockists are repeating on a weekly basis, which reduces risk. We’re pretty flexible [on minimum orders], nothing is cast in stone.”
In the UK, the brand is pitched at the middle to premium end of the market, with wholesale prices from £8 for bikini bottoms to £36 for a one-piece.
Over the past year, Seafolly’s international business has grown 48% year on year and Halas is aiming for similar growth this year. He is searching for five standalone store sites in London and is looking to bolster his indie account base.
Luisa de Paula, buying and merchandising director at etailer My-Wardrobe, buys the brand. “We are expanding swimwear for spring 11,” she says. “Our customer doesn’t necessarily want something off the high street; they want something better constructed.”
Last week saw the launch of a major Seafolly ad campaign, with bikini-clad women splashed across 600 London buses and billboards. Halas says: “Swimwear here doesn’t have the same brand awareness and I want to get women to start considering it as part of the fashion world.”
Seafolly 0845 408 0095 www.seafolly.com
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Years it takes a factory to become certified to make Seafolly swimwear
Number of designers at Seafolly’s head office in Australia