Staycation or Vacation? Either Way, Brands Anticipate Heavy Summer Spending

Inflatable pools. Beach towels. So. Much. Sunscreen. Consumers are prepping for summer—and retailers are readying to meet demand.
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Courtesy of Andie, Brooklinen, Food52, and Supergoop!

· 3 min read

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Last summer, airline customer service centers were flooded with flight cancelations. This summer is shaping up to be the opposite: In March, Adobe Analytics reported flight bookings grew 111% YoY, and hotel bookings jumped 50%.

As Covid-19 vaccination rates rise and travel inhibitions fall, retailers are giving shoppers the same nudge I got from my manager: Book some PTO (and buy some extra sunscreen or a new swimsuit to go with it).

According to Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insights at the National Retail Federation, a return to summer experiences is an encouraging sign for retailers. “We see an inclination to spend on categories that might've been a little bit on hold last year, [and] a lot of those spur related purchasing,” she told Retail Brew.

  • Retail segments expecting a bump can range from lawn and garden supplies (to impress long-lost house guests) to sandals and shorts (to outfit an overdue beach trip).

Itinerary? Check.

Brands usually found in Palm Springs carry-ons are prepared for a summer activity boom. “It’s going to be the roaring twenties all over again,” Melanie Travis, CEO of swimwear brand Andie, told us.

  • From late May to August, Andie will release new collections every few weeks, including 38 new swim styles—a 216% sku increase from last year. “We've never launched this many styles and collections throughout summer before,” Travis said.
  • Andie’s also offering same-day delivery in NYC and LA, as the brand anticipates extra demand from its target markets.

Supergoop!, a sunscreen label, wasn’t set back by extended indoor time last year: While it didn’t provide revenue figures, CEO Amanda Baldwin told Retail Brew its DTC business more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, and store sales remained strong. This year, “the combination of increased brand awareness, consumer spending picking up on a wider scale, and stores reopening means we’re definitely expecting increased demand over the next few months,” Baldwin said.

More activities = more brands involved

...even ones that weren't usually found out of office pre-2020.

Brooklinen, home of podcasters’ preferred sheets, expanded its 2020 assortment to include beach towels. Deanna Wu, VP of merchandising, told us the towels sold out within five weeks last year. As customers get more comfortable traveling, Brooklinen anticipates a 40% increase in category sales this year.

And last summer, home chef marketplace Food52 added inflatable pools to its outdoor living category partially in response to pandemic trends. Aja Aktay, senior merchandiser, told us the pools and other yard accessories’ sales have grown 200% YoY, outpacing kitcheny categories like food storage and frying pans. Food52 is expecting similar results this year: Aktay said Food52 began planning its summer 2021 assortment last September, and made orders with vendors “earlier than ever.”

Bottom line: As OOO messages return en masse, summery retailers can expect a halo of purchasing activity. — HL

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