10 things the intimate apparel industry has learned in 2017

As we get ready to pull the party poppers and jump into a new year, it’s time to reflect on the most important trends and stories of 2017 and think about how these will shape the next 12 months.

Bricks and clicks increase
The last 12 months saw an influx in online-only companies opening physical stores, showrooms or pop ups because when it comes to purchasing lingerie and swimwear there is no denying that an overwhelming amount of consumers want to see and feel a product before spending their money (even if in the end they depart with their cash online). Research by global real estate adviser, Colliers International, revealed that online-only retailers are taking residence in bricks and mortar stores because internet sales growth looks set to slow in the next few years. However, for businesses which are primarily online, the main focus of a physical presence is to reinforce consumer loyalty and confidence, rather than to generate sales through the tills. In 2017, luxury brand Mimi Holliday hosted its first pop-up shop, as did Kriss Soonik.

Sustainable brand Lara Intimates was launched earlier this year.

Sustainable brand Lara Intimates was launched earlier this year.

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The only way is ethics
The rise of lingerie and swimwear brands committing to ethical production continued in 2017, with many new sustainable brands launching on the market. In April, two Fashion Contour students from London College of Fashion launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund their sustainable underwear business, Lara Intimates (above). The pair raised £22,850 and are now producing lingerie from their new studio space in London using industry off-cuts – used or dyed by large factories in the UK. AmaElla was also launched in 2017 by Lara Miller and Julie Kervadec. Together, they produce garments using organic cotton under strict social practices. But it’s not just new designers that believe in a sustainable future; there’s also a trend for established brands and retailers cleaning up their operational activities. In October, John Lewis reported that its own-brand range of swim shorts, which are now made from recycled plastic bottles, witnessed a 39% surge in sales on 2016, proving a demand for ethical manufacturing. This is backed up by findings from Real World Insight, which revealed in a report last year that two in five consumers say that they have either stopped using or never use a brand if they do not agree with their values or behaviour.

Don’t just focus on millennials
While it is important to think about millennials and understand how to keep your business relevant to the next generation of consumers, experts have warned consumers not to forget the mature consumer, or else risk losing £4.5bn in annual sales by 2030. A recent report commissioned by charity organisation, Anchor, has revealed that many shoppers aged 70-plus find high street shops unwelcoming to them, with confusing automated technology and limited seating areas available for them to rest. The report warns that as baby boomers reach older age, they represent a significant part of retailers’ target audience, and one they often ignore. Unless high streets reinvent themselves as having an age-friendly environment, they are going to be missing out on billions of pounds of revenue each year and could seal their own demise.


Loyalty triumphs over discounts
Over the last 12 months many lingerie retailers were asking the question, ‘how can we compete against heavy discounting on the high street?’ While many have answered this by carving out a niche for themselves, by offering a unique shopping experience or products you can’t find on the high street, those still pondering this question will be pleased to know that research shows customers favour shopping somewhere they trust, over somewhere offering larger discounts. This has been backed up by Black Friday data, which revealed that online consumers were willing to spend more on more items this year, and did not insist on receiving big discounts in order to complete transactions. Furthermore, retailers throughout 2017 slashed the prices on less products, with retail analytics business Mallzee Insights predicting that the discounting trend could soon fizzle out. If this is true, the challenge for lingerie retailers in 2018 is to keep building consumer loyalty.

Body positivity campaigns gain momentum
It’s no secret that the lingerie industry has long been the culprit of body shaming, with thin, white, photoshopped models having become the norm, while consumers that don’t fit into this demographic are marginalised. But in 2017, body positive campaigns continued to combat this narrow image of beauty and champion the use of more realistic and varied bodies in the media, which everyone can relate to. In 2016, we had Selfridges’ EveryBody ad and Scantilly’s #theNewSexy campaign, and last year, we had a new wave of feel-good campaigns designed to empower women and promote confidence. In September, Figleaves unveiled a new campaign that celebrates women’s varied shapes and sizes. The campaign, #AShapeForEveryShape, was launched to promote the retailer’s AW17 collections, handpicked to fit and flatter all body types, and encourage women to embrace their shape. And in November, body positive model Ashley Alexiss (below) was appointed as new global brand ambassador for Lovehoney Lingerie.

Ashley Alexiss models Lovehoney's Moonlight basque set.

Ashley Alexiss models Lovehoney’s Moonlight basque set.

‘Retailtainment’ is the new Buzzword
During a period where shopping has altered significantly over the last decade, the retail climate has been experiencing an unprecedented shift in the way consumers are choosing to shop. With convenience at the forefront of shoppers’ minds, traditional brick and mortar stores are under more pressure than ever to grow the customer’s experience and meet new demands of consumers. To stand out from the crowd retailers are embracing the omni-channel experience and engaging in experimental retail, which is fast becoming the marketing method of choice to entice customers back into brick and mortar stores. Retailers are now moving away from what was once considered the norm by creating consumer experiences that are out of the ordinary. While there’s no ‘one size fits all’ method with ‘retailtainment’, it is important to note that this concept goes beyond hosting a cocktail evening, rather it’s about creating ‘instagrammable moments’, and memories which are as great as the products themselves.

Digital influencers gain in popularity
Digital influencers are spoken about like bralettes in the lingerie industry, with many questioning, ‘how long will this trend last?’ According to the latest research by Fashion and Beauty Monitor, as published on the company’s ‘The Age of Social Influence’ report, the answer is that the influence of bloggers shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, digital influencers have overtaken celebrities as the most popular choice for brand endorsements in 2017. In a survey taken by major national brands, 61% of respondents revealed they have worked with digital influencers over the last 12 months, compared with 57% who worked with a singer or musician, and approximately half who have worked with TV actors and models. Additionally, the largest majority of survey respondents (44%) believe digital influencers will be best suited to endorsement opportunities that they have coming up in the near future.

Digital influencers have overtaken celebrities as the most popular choice for brand endorsement.

Digital influencers have overtaken celebrities as the most popular choice for brand endorsements.

Baywatch swimsuits make a comeback
The iconic red swimsuit made famous in 90’s TV show Baywatch was the most searched for swimwear style of 2017. Searches for the fashion piece increased 200% on 2016 following the release of the Baywatch film in May 2017, according to The Year in Fashion Report published by online fashion search platform Lyst. The high street cottoned on to this and the likes of New Look, Boohoo, Zara, Speedo, Figleaves and Next developed their own take on the suit. The iconic swimsuit style also inspired a huge trend for high-cut, scooped neck one-pieces in the swimwear industry. And it wasn’t just this 90’s style that gained in popularity; overall sales of the swimsuit soared this year. Coco Bay, an online retailer specialising in premium swimwear, reported a 100% increase in swimsuit sales in spring 2017 compared to the previous year. At Figleaves, swimsuits are the biggest cash driver for the business, accounting for 55% of sales in 2017, a growth of 31% on the year.

Brands and retailers have developed their own version of the Baywatch swimsuit.

Brands and retailers have developed their own version of the Baywatch swimsuit.

Year of the bralette
The unstoppable underwear as outerwear and athleisure trends have driven a huge uplift in bralette sales in 2017. In the first three months of the year, lingerie brands and retailers from ASOS and John Lewis to Bluebella and Freya saw a surge in sales in this category, according to research carried out by Lingerie Insight. For Mimi Holliday, seven out of its 10 best-selling styles in January were non-wired triangle bras, versus just one out of 10 in the same period last year. Research by fashion analysts at Edited also shows that bralette sales rocketed 120% at 80 retailers across the US, UK and Europe in the first four months of 2017. The increased demand for this lingerie style has largely been driven by the popularity of ‘athleisure’, which hinges on the fusion of comfort and style, the unstoppable underwear as outerwear trend and busy lifestyles. For AW17, ‘hybrid’ fashionable bralettes that can be worn to the office, the gym or sophisticated evening do have been developed.

Retailers must focus on the experience
What was clear in 2017 is that many trips to the high street and shopping centres were leisure rather than spending driven, highlighting the importance of enticing customers with exciting shopping experiences. In November, footfall across all destinations rose post 5pm by 1.7% but dropped by 0.3% during retail trading hours. In line with this, retailers have been advised that creating emotional connections with consumers all year round is key to profit. A recent report offering advice to retailers said that marketing campaigns should look to engage customers and shops should deliver customer experiences that make people feel something before buying.



One Comment;

  1. Raysia said:

    Really good quality article.
    I like the AmaElla project. Brings the game to a whole new level.

    It was a great year but the best is yet to come. 🙂
    Have a great year!


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