Long-time Calgary-based retailer Swimco has announced it is closing its doors.
On its website, the company said “It’s Time We Say, Sea You Later.”
“After 45 years in business, Swimco must close its doors. Thank you for all the support and memories you gave us during this adventure. Canada is a country built on family business, and with that drive and determination we will see bluer skies and greener seas in the future.”
Earlier this year the national swimwear company had filed a Notice of Intention, under creditor’s protection, to restructure its operations as it responded to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But on October 13, a Certificate of Assignment into Bankruptcy was filed to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada by Deloitte Restructuring Inc., which is the licensed insolvency trustee in the matter.
OCTOBER 10 WAS SWIMCO’S LAST DAY IN OPERATION
A sign on Swimco’s former CF Market Mall location in Calgary said: “As of October 10, 2020, all retail locations are closed and will remain closed until further notice.”
“On June 11, 2020 Swimco Aquatics Supplies Ltd. and Swimco Partnership each filed a notice of intention to make a proposal . . . pursuant to section 50.4 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. Subsequent to filing the NOI, the Debtor was unable to make a viable proposal within any court granted extensions and is thereupon deemed to have made an assignment into bankruptcy effective October 10, 2020.”
Lori Bacon, Owner and CEO of the company, could not be reached for comment.
“Does anybody mourn the loss of a legacy chain of Canadian retail stores? It’s a sad day on the Canadian retail scene with the demise of the homegrown Swimco aquatic fashion stores following 45 years in business,” said Michael Kehoe, a retail real estate specialist in Calgary with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate. “Swimco was the quintessential entrepreneurial retailing dream come true. From humble beginnings at the family home in Calgary in the matriarch’s basement manufacturing swimwear, Swimco grew organically by catering to local Calgary swim clubs and into a national chain with 20 stores.
“The firm led by their visionary female co-founder mastered the art of personal service catering to women in the highly specialized swimwear business. In the Darwinian struggle of fashion retailing, Swimco was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the cruise ship industry and international vacation travel. In Calgary Alberta, an entrepreneurial hot spot in Canada, the loss of the local iconic Swimco brand, a family owned and operated legacy fashion retailer will be mourned.
“We should all take note that the multi-pronged factors that plague retailers in these challenging times are; the economic downturn in certain Canadian provinces, the pandemic lockdown and the disruption of bricks and mortar retailing due to COVID-19, ineffective government programs that may have sustained retailers like Swimco in these tough times and in some cases a lack of landlord cooperation.”
The retailer opened its first store in Calgary in 1983 but Swimco actually had its roots as a home-based, mail-order business started by Bacon’s mother Corinne Forseth a few years before the retailer opened its first location.
“We’re looking to be a smaller company. We’re at 20 (stores) and we envision staying there,” said Bacon in an interview with Retail Insider during the summer. At that time, she confirmed that the company had about $6.5 million in unsecured claims and that included about $1.6 million in landlord rent.
Swimco had reduced its head office by about half. The company had 45 staff in its corporate head office but that was reduced to about 20. Retail staff was about 200 but fell to about 120 during the summer.
Bacon said then that the COVID crisis came around spring break which meant no travel for people.
“With all stores being shut and still having your rent looming over you, you go in the hole pretty quick. At first, I think everyone was just in a state of shock. ‘For two weeks we’re going to close.’ But it readily became apparent that this was not a two-week thing. We laid everybody off temporarily. We closed the stores on Monday March 16 and we quickly laid off all our store people and most of our head office people and by the following week we had laid off everybody,” she said.