Billabong plays it safe with swimwear styles and pays price on market

AUSSIE surfwear giant Billabong’s decision to go against the fashion tide with “safe” versus skimpy designs has contributed to a $77.1 million wipe out.


The surfwear retailers decision to stick to bikini styles in bright floral prints turned away customers who demanded bold colours and racier styles they had seen on social media, according to the retailer’s boss.


Billabong yesterday posted a net loss of $77.1 million for the year to June – a blowout from the $23.7 million loss it sustained a year earlier.

Chief executive Neil Fiske said swimwear in its Australian stores had lagged behind the emerging US bikini trends – such as high-cut bikini bottoms and unusual colours – which, along with an overall slump in the retail market, contributed to the negative result.


Mr Fiske said after a strong 2016 fiscal year, the brand had stuck to similar swimwear styles, while local customers demanded racier bikinis they had seen on social media.


“What we found was we really went back to the well and replicated some of our past successes, at a time when the market and the trends were shifting,” he said. “We played it too safe.

“Our customer is globally connected – we have 37 million followers across our social media.


“I’ve been in stores where customers will pull out their phones and an Instagram from another country, and say where can I get this item.”


Mr Fiske said Billabong took the trends which had worked in the US and trialled them in a set of Australian stores in February, to great response.

“Those styles have now arrived in all our stores and look great, and we’re off to a much better start to this (fiscal) year,” he said.


“There has been a shift away from prints, to solid colours, certainly from what has been a very strong print market previously.

“There has also been a shift to more unusual colour tones, colours which traditionally weren’t really associated with swimwear, like olive and mustard versus bright pinks, purples and florals – even basic black and white pieces look really striking.”


Mr Fiske said “Brazilian” style cut bottoms, high-waisted styles, ’70s retro-inspired pieces and the return of the one-piece had also proved popular.

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