Against the odds, Singapore is swimwear brand Seafolly's biggest customer - at least in terms of sales per square foot.
The Republic is the Australian brand's top-performing market worldwide, quite a feat considering that the 41-year-old label has 2,500 stores and sales points in more than 40 countries.
It first entered the Singapore market 20 years ago and now has four stores - in Great World City, Wisma Atria, Takashimaya Department Store and Raffles City - each measuring about 1,000 sq ft, small compared with the outlets of most international brands here, which are typically at least 1,200 sq ft.
The clincher: Shoppers here are lapping up the brand's swimwear, sunscreen, cover-ups and accessories such as hats and sunglasses, spending an average of $700 a transaction.
"Each store is doing very well," says Seafolly's chief executive officer Anthony Halas, who was here last month for the opening of the brand's fourth outlet at Raffles City.
"Our Singapore market has been enjoying double-digit growth year on year and we are confident this will continue into next year."
The 49-year-old, who joined the family business in 1996 as its international sales manager, puts Seafolly's popularity here down to the fit and quality of its swimwear, a must because Australian women "live in their swimsuits and do strenuous water sports such as surfing in them", and the fact that Singapore is warm all year round.
The brand's sizes range from Australia 6 to 18, which is the same as the United Kingdom sizing chart widely used in stores here.
There are also swim tops with underwire and thicker straps for women with bigger busts.
Half of the brand's 24-strong design team are focused on the fit of the swimwear, known for its fashionable and colourful designs.
The brand also has a range of swimwear and clothing for children but none for men.
The limited number of stores it has here may have, ironically, boosted sales, says Mr Halas: "Because Seafolly isn't everywhere in Orchard Road - we haven't been one of those brands which has opened a store in every single shopping centre here - we are still exclusive enough."
The bestsellers here: one-piece swimsuits with a boy-leg cut, sunscreen and booster bras with extra padding for the bust.
Prices range from $25 for sun cream to $300 for a one-piece swimsuit.
The average price of a bikini top and bottom is $139 and $99 respectively.
Despite the tough retail climate, Mr Halas, who is married and has three children, plans to open four more stores here in the heartland within the next five years.
He is unfazed by the competition from fast-fashion brands that have launched their own swimwear ranges at lower price points in recent years.
"You can buy a swimsuit from other fast-fashion brands for $30, but the fit won't be very good and it might not last beyond a few wears," he says.
Investor L Catterton Asia (formerly known as L Capital Asia) agrees.
The Asian private equity business of French multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, bought 70 per cent of its worldwide business in 2014 for over A$70 million.
Seafolly plans to expand in the United States, where there are seven stores. Mr Halas plans to open eight more there next year.
The next frontier: China, where there are no Seafolly stores.
Says Mr Halas: "China's a really strong focus for us - it remains one of the core markets for us to develop, given its ever increasing consumption power and continuous rise of the middle class."
This article was first published on December 8, 2016.
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