After going into bankruptcy and closing all its retail locations in the fall of 2020, Calgary-based swimwear retailer Swimco is growing its business online and looking to get back into physical locations in the near future.
Dave Bacon, owner of the retail brand, said after the company went into bankruptcy over the Thanksgiving weekend 2020 he convinced the receiver to maintain the online sales because it could attract more dollars to the estate than just liquidating it pennies on the dollar.
“So we continued to run the online sales through the fall of 2020, working for the receiver. I put a bid in for the assets and there were other people who put bids in for the assets as well and my bid was the highest. So I bought the assets from the receiver. I bought the inventory, the building and intellectual property,” said Bacon.
The building was a warehouse in southeast Calgary.
“That’s where we started our own destiny after that. We just continued to sell online. We knew that when summer hit we would start to see our summer business and it did. In May (2021), we opened up as a pop-up store in Willow Park Village. We were open for six weeks and we did quite well,” said Bacon.
“It’s been kind of up and down but we’re still surviving. We started buying new merchandise, started taking delivery on new merchandise last fall. We decided we’re going to go full-time somewhere. I’ve got a couple of irons in the fire right now but we think if we have a store in Edmonton and a store in Calgary we can have a presence. Not like we were but we can satisfy a big chunk of the swimwear market. We’re getting calls every week for the last 18 months. ‘Where’s your locations? What stores are still open?’ And the answer is no we’re just online. We know we’ve got brand awareness. We know the people want to shop with us, we know we’ve got the right product, we’ve got two really good strong buyers, we’ve got some nice merchandise and we’re making sales online. So it’s very encouraging.”
Bacon said the plan is to open two stores this year.
“We’re going to open permanently. To be able to attract staff we have to offer a permanent solution. It would be difficult for us to attract the right type of sales person for a temporary pop-up. And we’re just not deep enough to staff it ourselves,” he said. “That’s what we ran into last year. We got so busy, especially the last three weeks of June, that our little office staff was working in the store every day.
“In fact, the last three days, July long weekend, I worked the cash register for three days in a row because we had no staff. Everybody was on the floor. We had 10 sales people and we were busy as hell.”
His wife Lori Bacon had spearheaded the company for a number of years as its CEO and owner.
“We’re in it together financially. But she hasn’t worked since last June. She decided that she just didn’t want to do it anymore. She got two of our former buyers up to speed. She’s just been doing the grandma thing. We’ve got a couple of grandchildren. She’s golfing and playing pickleball and gardening,” said Dave Bacon.
Swimco closed its retail store locations after 45 years in business. In 2020, 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, 2020, a Certificate of Assignment into Bankruptcy was filed to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada by Deloitte Restructuring Inc., which was the licensed insolvency trustee in the matter.
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 Lori 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 Lori Bacon in an interview with Retail Insider during the summer of 2020. 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 that summer.
Lori Bacon said then that the COVID crisis in 2020 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.
Pre-COVID it had 25 stores in operation.