Jun 25

When Victoria’s Secret left the swimsuit business, direct-to-consumer brands began to thrive

If you’re a younger, female customer like Merrill, it’s likely you’ve stumbled across one of Andie’s, Lively’s or Summersalt’s ads on Instagram or Facebook, or on the subway if you live or work in New York. They all started their businesses online, amassed loyal followings on social media and are generating buzz this summer around their inclusive size offerings in swimwear, instead of trying to target American women en masse.

“The most effective direct-to-consumer brands are going after certain demographics,” said Web Smith, founder of retail research platform 2PM. “Companies like Andie are going after particular customers, whereas Victoria’s Secret is going after all women.”

Meantime, swimsuits can be difficult to master as a brand, he said, because “it’s such a technical fabric to make, products are very specific to fabric size … you can’t get it wrong.”

For Andie, getting product and fit right was the most important thing before moving into spending on digital marketing. The brand launched in April 2017 but didn’t spend on marketing until roughly May 2018, a year later, according to founder and CEO Melanie Travis.

“If you make a product women don’t want, you can pay all the money in the world to Facebook and Instagram, and people won’t buy it,” Travis said. “A lot of brands fail when they fail to understand the customer.”

And in swim, as in lingerie, there’s been a movement toward more women wanting coverage and comfort. Up-and-coming swimsuit maker Summersalt’s motto, for example, is “Every body is a beach body.”

“So much of swim has been done in oversexualized ways,” Summersalt co-founder Lori Coulter said. “Many legacy brands only know how to market this way.”

Summersalt launched online in May 2017, selling $95 swimsuits targeting women over the age of 22, and just a few weeks ago rolled out suits for maternity sizes.

“Anyone can think they can do swimwear, but it’s really important to optimize fit,” co-founder Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin said. “We’re bridging the gap between functional and style at the same time. … It’s easy to make something shiny on Instagram, but if it doesn’t actually perform,” you’ll lose customers, and fast, she said.

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