Calgary-based Swimco has returned to physical retail locations with an eye towards expanding to more stores in the future.
It comes more than two years after the company went bankrupt, closing all of its locations across Canada after 45 years in business. At its peak, the Swimco had 25 stores across Canada.
Two stores opened on Boxing Day this year — one in Calgary and one in Edmonton — something the swimwear company's owner Dave Bacon said brought him "joy and relief."
"With two stores and an online business, we feel we've got a viable model and we hope to continue to grow as we see our business come back to us," he said.
Swimco had filed a notice of intention to restructure in June 2020 as the pandemic shut down malls and consequently the company's cash flow. By October, the company realized that wasn't a viable path, and went through the bankruptcy receivership process. Deloitte was appointed as trustee.
Bacon said the receiver had allowed him to sell stock online rather than liquidating it for cents on the dollar. He later ended up buying Swimco's assets himself.
"I put in new money just as anybody else could have put new money in," he said. "So I got the building, the intellectual property, which is the trademarks and the names, and the inventory.
"It allowed me to, with the knowledge and the staff, I was able to just hit the ground running."
Swimco first opened a temporary pop-up store in 2021 followed by two physical locations in plaza retail environments in Calgary and Edmonton, something that allows the company to pay less rent than it did in previous locations such as West Edmonton Mall. Bacon said the company will eye similar opportunities in additional Canadian cities.
Brand recognition in Alberta
Mount Royal University marketing professor Neil Brigden said he hasn't yet heard many similar stories of retail operations returning out of the pandemic, but suspects there's a possibility others may take a similar approach.
"We may see other retailers follow in those footsteps — looking to keep their costs down as they test the waters and determine exactly how much of those in-person sales are going to return," he said. "It makes sense to me. We'll have to see how it plays out."
Brigden noted that Swimco exists in a product category where people want to see and touch the product prior to making a purchase.
"They've still got a good reputation in this market. So if they can succeed anywhere, they should be able to succeed here in Alberta where they have good brand recognition, still well-known as a strong local business," he said.
"So it seems like a good place for them to try things out. If it doesn't work here, then it's probably not going to work in Ontario either. But this seems like the place where they would have the best chance of success."