Longstanding Penticton company can't keep up with market demand as cycling boom continues

Demand bigger than supply

Casey Richardson

“Community Cornerstones,” is a series highlighting different longstanding local businesses in Penticton.

Hatched from an idea in 1990, a Penticton couple created a business that was one of the first to design and market a hitch-style mounted bike rack. Founders Jim and Jan Morris built Swagman as a better way to transport bikes and have grown the brand with new designs and ideas with outdoor products.

“Originally, we were sort of the leader in the industry. We were way ahead of any of our competitors. Back then, most people were running truck mounted racks,” said Dave Michael, Swagman director of sales and marketing.

“We held that industry leading position for several years and then other companies caught up and surpassed us. That happens in the industry.”

Swagman has been investing in new designs and categories, with plans to roll out products later this year. The pandemic also pushed sales through the roof, bringing in more demand for product than the company could keep up.

“The cycling industry as a whole has just seen this massive explosion, it's bigger than what we called the 'Lance Effect' back in the 90’s. And it was so sudden, that the industry wasn’t capable of responding to it immediately.”

Although the company worked to improve production to get in more inventory, a shortage of materials and capabilities held up delivery.

“We can’t even get in the raw materials to build some of the racks and then there’s shipping delays...and the increased demand makes it that much worse,” Michael explained.

While the company does not manufacture their product locally, the engineers and teams are based in Penticton and work to build products that match BC’s outdoor needs. Currently 15 employees work for Swagman, with plans to hire on more with a growing influx in sales and operations.

“Penticton is sort of this mecca for outdoor sports, with Ironman being here from its inception and the triathlon with the Peach Classic and other sporting events, it definitely helps attract employees.”

Plans for the future of the company is to continue investing in new products and technologies, further adding to their inventory.

“With the reinvestment in the systems, the architecture and the new products, we feel that Swagman will continue to grow. We have some three, five-year plans to significantly grow the company,” Michael said.

“Our hope is a lot of these people who have rejoined cycling or have found cycling in the last 12 months, will continue to cycle after COVID has gone and you’ll see a great couple years for the industry.”

For more information on Swagman and its products, visit their website here.

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