E-commerce is the key to growth in today’s retail world according to Dave Bacon, CEO of Swimco, a beach and resort wear retailer based in Western Canada. “With our prior experience in mail-order we knew what we had to do to our infrastructure to launch an effective site and provide the shopping experience and service required. From start to finish, GSI and The Commercial Group delivered,” said Bacon.

Through its e-commerce initiative, Swimco is transitioning from local to national in its market position. In addition to serving customers where the chain has strong brand recognition through its 22 retail stores, the site has begun to draw traffic from other geographic markets. Already almost half of the traffic is from areas beyond the reach of its bricks and mortar locations. “Our objective is to grow this site over the next two years to a position as one of our top tier stores if not our number one store”, said Bacon.

Swimco’s unique “fit expert” customer service is a strong competitive differentiator that permits the chain to support a customer value-pricing strategy. The unique mix and match design gives customers the ability to create their perfect fit and service. Providing a mix and match capability along with a real-time “live chat” with a Swimco fit expert was critical to translating Swimco’s value proposition to a customer’s internet shopping experience. We staff this live chat with experienced fit consultants from our stores so our customers always receive quality service” said Laura McCallum, Swimco’s e-commerce manager.

The project took eight months from the first discovery meetings to the website launch. Throughout the project, a small team focused on building a site that supported Swimco’s competitive advantage. This included a catalog with extensive brand selection, , customer loyalty program with the chain’s Cabana Club email newsletter, integration with Swimco’s retail management and inventory systems, and integration with Swimco’s customer service.


Already Swimco is in a market oriented tuning phase. “Our focus is on content marketing. Search engine optimization efforts include both organic and paid search to draw traffic to our site,” said McCallum. Over the coming year, she expects to explore customer data for more insights and ways to improve customer touch points. “We see some differences in our internet customer profiles from our traditional bricks and mortar customers. Aside from the geographic differences, our internet customer demographics are younger and more active online”, she said.

Using Google Analytics and internal metrics to monitor traffic and conversion rates, integrated marketing campaigns are deployed across the chain as well as online. “While we are not promotion driven, we work with our merchants and use our assortments to highlight company, best sellers and diverse product selection. Similarly, we make it easy for our internet customers to view and select from our “go to” styles that fit well,” said McCallum.

Swimco’s e-commerce initiative is only one piece of an overall strategic plan for the chain according to Dave Bacon, CEO. “We are taking a longer term view. How do we grow? How do we adapt our organizational structure? How do we support our strategy with a succession plan?” are just a few of the questions Bacon is addressing in Swimco’s strategic planning process. For Swimco, e-commerce is a means of expanding to markets in Eastern Canada and rural locations without the capital investment required for bricks and mortar stores.

Based in Calgary, Alberta, Swimco operates twenty-two (22) retail stores in metropolitan areas across Western Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan) with a year-round focus on swimwear and resort wear. Swimco started almost 40 years ago as a mail-order catalog business that evolved into a traditional specialty retail chain. Swimco has been a long-term GSI customer having joined the Retail-1 family of users over a decade ago.

For more information about Swimco, visit their website, www.swimco.com or contact Ms. Laura McCallum at lmccallum@swimco.com. Learn more about integrated retail management systems at www.gemmar.com. For more information, contact Sales at 514-631-3336 or sales@gemmar.com.