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Once upon a time, lingerie and swimwear were two very different things, with each sector and product type boasting its own leading players and its own unique stand points and marketing techniques when it came to appealing to the target audience. However, in a world where vouchers, discounts and deals are driving us towards more luxurious holidays and more experiential trips abroad as well as spa days, and with retailers creating entire collections designed to support and cater to all our holidays needs, the swimwear brand in particular has a seen a huge surge unlike any other. As a result, many lingerie brands are now recognising the importance of the sector rise and complimenting their existing ranges with special swimwear collections.
You would be hard pressed to now find a lingerie retailer which doesn’t also stock swimwear during the Spring and Summer seasons at the very least – if not all year round. Whether it be from their own brand or from an external brand enjoying an instore pop-up, our affinity for hot holidays and beach breaks has seen a great surge in the amount of focus that retailers are putting on swimwear – with many specialist lingerie providers now using their position in the market to reach those same buyers with targeted and specialist swimwear options.
To first look at the lingerie market, it is not difficult to see how the industry has expanded its success in recent years, with the reality of marketing making waves in the sector and forcing both retailers and brands to reassess the ways in which they showcase their products. This has largely been driven by an increase in the use of visual marketing and video ads, with the media playing a large part in the overhaul of models used, shining a spotlight on the former and almost exclusive use of thin models in order to promote lingerie.
This has now, of course, shifted exponentially – so much so that brands who still only use skinny models to promote their fashion lines are penalised regularly in the media and by their follower and fanbase. A popular example is Victoria’s Secret, a global name in the lingerie industry which enjoys huge success and yet received huge backlash for their infamous annual show which, up until recently, only showcased young, thin, and beautiful models. The idea of being a “Victoria’s Secret Angel” has become such a coveted title within the celebrity and influencer world that girls from all over the world flood social media with images in the hopes of being spotted – driving forward one of the most sensational, successful, and lasting lingerie marketing campaigns of all time. And yet, despite this success, this example only proves that no amount of success or notoriety can save a brand from negative press if an issue is rife and causing a lot of noise – in this case, dealing with what is termed in the media as ‘fat shaming’.
In terms of the main retailers in the lingerie sector, aside from a few key players, the biggest sellers of lingerie tend to be fashion stores and department stores which feature lingerie as part of a much wider fashion collection. Some of the targeted lingerie stores seeing success include:
What is notable here is that all of these retailers are also significant brands – and they only stock, advertise and sell their own brands of lingerie. Though one could argue that this is simply down to their immense success in the market, another factor to explain the exclusivity of these stores is simply that they each cater for very different markets – with Hips and Curves famously catering for plus size women while Ann Summers is renowned for its costume lingerie and alluring designs, and Boux Avenue is typically regarded as a brand with more of a wholesome image suitable for buyers of all ages.
As well as these exclusive brands, the lingerie market is also saturated with own brand lingerie styles from some of the fashion market’s most successful apparel retailers, with some of them even partnering with celebrities to drive forward sales and to make a name for their lingerie collections and ranges – think Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s lingerie collection in Marks & Spencer. These kinds of collaborations are designed to entice a different kind of buyer, with most examples of celebrity collections showing a move away from the retailer’s norm. Other retailers who are influential in the lingerie market, both through selling their own branded lingerie and products from other brands, include:
How, then do these kinds of retailers and brands move into the swimwear industry?
It is a commonly recognised fact that swimwear is much the same as lingerie in terms of its style and design – one is simply designed for use in public, while another is hugely private. Therefore, it seems obvious that one sector would bleed into another, taking popular designs in the lingerie or swimwear market and adjusting them to suit the other.
In fact, it seems as though the brands who are doing this most successfully are those which are putting real focus into their marketing and the way that they appeal to their target customer. That could be through the visuals they put out or the influencers they partner with, or it could be as simple as the wording they use in product descriptions and product names. But for the most part, brands such as Figleaves which offers lingerie in larger as well as smaller sizes, is enjoying the success of a well performing swimwear brand because it is making women feel comfortable with their size and showing them that options are available.
This is also something that department stores are particularly good at, with many of the most popular department stores enjoying the range of a selection of swimwear brands, ensuring that they can cater for a market who want alluring swimwear, just as much as a market who want cover-ups and waist enhancing swimming costumes.
Some of the largest providers and retailers in the swimwear industry include:
Meanwhile, some of the main brands in the swimwear industry include:
If you’ve never seen any of these brands before, that’s because they don’t exist in stores. These are all online and ecommerce brands, which have harnessed the power of social media and online advertising, have revelled in the success of offering their own vouchers and discount deals, and have made a name for themselves through unique selling points, great visuals and imagery, and high end endorsements.
Did you know that the average advertising Instagram or Facebook post, posted by a celebrity or influencer, can earn them from £1,000 upwards? Online advertising is a huge business, particularly in the fashion market and its various sectors which are already saturated and constantly being flooded by new brands and new trends.
While many of the leading brands use their influence to gain social media followings and to get their brands out there on televised ads and commercials, it is the smaller brands which are using social media and online platforms for innovation and to stand out. By example, some of these are joining large voucher deal sites and saving events, while others create pages and accounts which are as much about great imagery as they are about selling product – particularly with regards to swimwear which is often surrounded by gorgeous travel backdrops and landscapes.
The issue with swimwear however is that it is largely regarded as a seasonal purchase, with many showing little interest in the sector outside of the Spring and Summer seasons. Of course, if you are a global brand or retailer then this is not so much of a problem – with someone in the world always looking for a new piece to add to their swimwear collection. But for those operating purely in the EU or in the USA, this can throw up challenges regarding consistency of sales. And that’s where marketing comes in – with many successful brands using their platforms to drive engagement, reveal new trends and designs, and simply get their target audience’s summer holiday vibes flowing ready for the next season.
And, of course, there are those who go in the opposite direction – taking their successful swimwear brand and turning it into a lingerie brand during those quiet periods, an example being Calzedonia which took a successful swimwear brand and added socks and stockings for diversification.
So, the big question is, are swimwear brands suffering?
With the rise of social media, the simple answer is no. The fact is that buyers are more likely to drop a large amount of money on an expensive or a high end swimsuit than they are on a bra or pair of pants, primarily because the swimwear is something that they will be showing to the world while their underwear or lingerie is something private that the majority of people will not see.
With so many start-ups and independent brands entering both the swimwear and lingerie markets on a regular basis, the opportunity for online gift cards has never been better – particularly for those which operate across a large cross section of different retailer and brands, and which embody those physical and ecommerce stores that introduce a plethora of different brands under the main retailer umbrella. By this we mean department stores and marketplace retailers like NotOnTheHighStreet and Etsy.
Other single brands in the lingerie and swimwear industry who offer and promote gift card use include:
When we consider the lingerie and swimwear sectors, we think we know what they include – however for most of us, what we are forgetting is the extra features and products which sit within the market and compliment the swimsuits, bikinis, bras and pairs of pants which grace the shelves. Some of these popular products include:
Looking at the trends in the lingerie market in particular, it soon becomes clear that though the concept of a garment remains the same, its style and the way it alters the appearance of the body can change hugely in a very short period of time. Push-Up bras are a great example: once popular, the rise in natural appearances drove push-up bra sales into the ground. While much of this will have to do with fashion trends and which items compliment and match the clothes we are wanting to wear, a lot of these trends are also coming from celebrity culture and the media, with our concept of what is attractive being forced to change on a regular basis driven by what we see online and on the television.
Another factor which is likely to affect the future of the lingerie market is the way in which retailers and brands use the term “nude” to describe skin coloured pieces. With media controversy forcing a change in the way that these kinds of terms are used, and with many high end retailers falling under scrutiny for their choices of colour terms and product names in recent months and years, we are likely to see that the future of lingerie brands and retailers will depend on their ability to adapt their styling, colouring and garment fits to the wider market. Those who are accepting of all body types and shapes, and those who celebrate those different body shapes and types through their marketing and social activity, are those who will continue to do well.
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