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Feb 18, 2021

Are you ready to ride the outdoor swimming wave?

This month, Outdoor Swimmer magazine launched its first annual Trends in Outdoor Swimming Report. As part of the study, Outdoor Swimmer magazine looked at the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on participation in outdoor swimming, as well as the kit that swimmers use and their spending habits. Their findings, drawn from the results of a robust survey of over 2000 swimmers as well as from interviews with leading figures in the industry, offer some very interesting insights for UK swim retailers….

Are you ready to ride the outdoor swimming wave?

The consensus anecdotally within the community is that outdoor swimming has been growing.  Now we have a report that backs this up with evidence from multiple sources.  Did you know for example that outdoor swimming-related Google searches almost doubled in the UK in the summer last year and between May and September total searches were 90% higher in 2020 than in 2019 (and 83% higher than in 2018)!  Operators of outdoor swimming venues reported massive demand for swimming spots once they were allowed to open and saw much higher swimmer numbers despite the social distancing restrictions they had to put in place. Overall, Outdoor Swimmer Magazine  estimates that participation in outdoor swimming grew somewhere between 1.5 and 3 times in the UK in 2020 compared to the previous year.  That clearly has an influence on sales opportunities for retailers!

OS found that roughly 1 in 5 of the people who completed the survey started outdoor swimming in 2020, and 75% of those new swimmers intended to keep swimming outdoors through the winter.  This indicates that the traditional summer season of outdoor swimming is no more, with increasing amounts of swimmers choosing to swim outdoors all year round. The benefits of outdoor swimming to mental health and wellbeing also made a strong standing in the Report; 70% of all swimmers surveyed stated that outdoor swimming is “essential” or “very important” to their general wellbeing.  With mental health a real and ongoing concern for politicians, scientists and community leaders right across the UK, this statistic has also given the survey more publicity amongst the media, raising the profile of outdoor swimming even further and hopefully encouraging even more people to take the plunge in 2021.   

In short, the findings of the survey have to give sports and swim retailers great cause for optimism. With hard data now readily available to support the consensus that participation in open water swimming is growing, retailers can be confident that there is a tangible and growing audience to market their products to throughout the year, and there are new potential customers beyond the traditional race and event-driven summer swimmer.  Exciting times ahead surely.

The findings on how much swimmers intend to spend on swimming kit in the next 12 months give further cause for optimism.  Proposed expenditure on kit over the year ranges from zero to £1500 – with an average of £164 per swimmer!  Outdoor Swimmer magazine also asked participants what items of kit they intend on replacing in the next 12 months. Top of the list was goggles, an easy to stock product, closely followed by swimming costumes, then wetsuits / aqua skins…. 

From a swimming brand perspective, Nick Holmes, UK Country Manager for Aqua Sphere, believes that it’s excellent that we have this up-to-the-minute independent survey that clearly confirms that popularity in open water swimming is on the rise.  He told Sports Insight “This should be of real interest to savvy retailers looking for the next activity trend and, despite the current lockdown restrictions, we are already enjoying positive discussions with all sizes of retailer to see how we can help them benefit from this increased participation as things open up.  Whether its stocking more goggles like ours which are ideal for both pool and open water and trusted amongst swimmers of all ages, or helping advise retailers who are looking to branch out more into swimwear, wetsuits or aqua skins and are interested in becoming the expert retailer in their region, there has never been a better time to take a fresh look at your swim section in our opinion. “ 

“All those involved in swimming are feeling very positive about 2021.  Aqua Sphere prides itself on the unbeatable lens technology of its goggles and is launching more lens tints than ever this year, ensuring all light conditions are covered from indoor to inclement outdoor weather, really focusing on delivering the widest and most exacting choice possible for every single swimmer.  Plus our wetsuit range has been redesigned for 2021 and the entry level Pursuit V3 delivers excellent warmth, flexibility and buoyancy at a decent price point, plus we have a range of Aqua Skins, tops and shorts for when the weather warms up further, then of course our active swimwear…  Retailers are of course free to choose how much they want to invest in swimming and we are happy to advise anyone on the best return possible for all sizes of space, but its definitely time to take a fresh look at this activity and see how you can ride the wave in 2021 and beyond.” 

Retailers wishing to have an informal discussion to see how they could optimise their swim sales opportunities are invited to email Nick [email protected] or Martin [email protected]    

To download the highlights or request a full copy of the Trends in Outdoor Swimming report, please click here.

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