Trends & Features

The NPD Group looks at how swimming is faring from a participation and retail sales point of view

This summer saw a number of important events take place in the international swimming calendar, with competitors from Great Britain taking their place on the winner’s podium at various meets.

Success was achieved at the Commonwealth Games in July, with both Scottish and English swimmers winning medals in the pool, while at the European Swimming Championships, which took place in Berlin a month later, Great Britain headed the final medal table with 11 gold, eight silver and eight bronze medals.

Significant improvement
Both achievements represented a significant improvement compared to the disappointing performance in the pool during London 2012, which had far reaching consequences for the sport at an elite level. Swimming’s central funding from UK Sport for the Olympic cycle 2016 to 2020 was cut as a result.

In terms of participation in England, swimming is still the most popular and widely participated in sport, according to the latest Sport England Active People survey. For the 12 months ending April 2014, 6.6 per cent of people aged 16 and above took part in some form of swimming activity once a week.

Swimming is seen as a good way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. On top of being an effective fat burner and cardiovascular workout, it doesn’t negatively impact muscles and joints the way other sports do. But despite these benefits, swimming participation has decreased during the past eight years.

Apparel market
Taking these elements into account, how has the swimwear apparel market fared in Great Britain?

According to NPD Group Consumer Panel data, the swimwear apparel market (excluding goggles and training aids) in Great Britain was worth £189 million for the 12-month period ending June 2014. The market grew six per cent compared to the same period in 2013 and followed two consecutive years of decline.

In terms of value, female swimwear accounts for almost 50 per cent of total swimwear apparel sales, followed by just over 30 per cent for male swimwear and around 20 per cent for children’s swimwear. How is swimwear used? Around 65 per cent of apparel purchased in Great Britain is for leisure purposes.

With female swimwear being such a big part of the market and leisure usage also important, manufacturers go to great lengths to design swimwear that is both functional and great looking. Consumers are very much spoiled for choice in terms of the designs of swimwear available and there are options to match every budget.

It remains to be seen whether the strong performance of the swimwear apparel category will carry on into the second half of the year and beyond. Manufacturers and retailers alike will be working hard to ensure this newly buoyant apparel category remains that way.

The NPD Group monitors the sales of sports footwear and sports apparel in many countries around the world. For more information visit

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