Calgary-based swimwear retailer Swimco is expanding its operations into Ontario, after growing to 22 locations in Western Canada since it began opening stores in 1983. Owner/President/CEO Lori Bacon explained in an interview how the company is seeing success by making customers comfortable buying swimwear.
Swimco carries over 150 brands and 1,000 styles for women, men and children. Women’s swimwear ranges in size from 4 to 24, including specialty fits for various body types. The company’s in-store ‘Fit Experts’ help consumers find what they want, in an environment meant to make consumers comfortable. Ms. Bacon explained that because some consumers may be hesitant to purchase swimwear, Swimco’s aim is to make the experience comfortable as well as positive.
Swimco was founded in 1975 as a mail-order business by Lori’s mother Corinne Forseth, in the basement of the family home in Calgary. The business originally focused on products for swim clubs and lifeguards. Ms. Forseth’s daughter Lori joined the business in 1980 and in 1983, with the help of Lori’s husband and brother, Swimco opened its first retail store in Calgary. Swimco expanded operations further in the 1980’s to include three Calgary stores as well as a Vancouver location, focusing primarily on fashion swimwear.
In the 1990’s, the family opened locations in Alberta and British Columbia, expanding into markets such as Kelowna and Victoria. In the early 2000’s, they opened in Red Deer and in December of 2011, Swimco bought-out competitor Edmonton-based Swimwear Etc.. This expanded Swimco’s store base from 14 locations to 25 in just one month, gaining the retailer a presence in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In 2014, Swimco launched its comprehensive e-commerce site, which is now available to American shoppers as well.
Ms. Bacon said that after focusing on Western Canada, Swimco is now ready to expand eastward, beginning with Ontario. On Monday, December 12, Swimco will open its first Ontario store at Square One in Mississauga, measuring 2,100 square feet. Ms. Bacon further revealed that in early February of 2017, Swimco’s expansion will continue with a store opening at CF Masonville Place in London, ON, followed by an April opening at CF Limeridge in Hamilton.
Looking into the future, Ms. Bacon said that the Greater Toronto Area will be an important focus for Swimco, as the retailer looks to gain further market share in Canada’s most populous region. Enclosed malls are Swimco’s primary location focus, though the brand also has street front locations in Vancouver (Granville Street and on W. 4th Avenue in Kitsilano) and on 17th Avenue SW in Calgary. Ms. Bacon said that Swimco could ultimately see about 32 stores operating in Canada (possibly more depending on opportunity) , and is working with David Bishop at brokerage Northwest Atlantic on the company’s store expansion. New stores will generally be in the 2,000 square foot to 2,400 square foot range, she said.