Mark Walsh, chief executive officer of Bob’s Stores and a principal of Versa Capital, has been named ceo of Versa’s new Vestis Retail Group in a consolidation of the private equity firm’s Bob’s and Eastern Mountain Sports retail assets.
With the combination of Bob’s and EMS into a single operating entity, Will Manzer has stepped down as ceo of Bob’s and will serve as a consultant to the company during a transition. EMS, a 68-unit outdoor retailer with stores in 12 Eastern states, will close its distribution center, resulting in a loss of about 110 jobs, with warehouse and distribution functions to be centralized in Bob’s facilities in Meriden, Conn.
Versa said that Vestis has more than 3,200 employees and generates nearly $500 million in annual revenues. Versa noted that the two retail names “will remain separate and distinct retail brands in stores, merchandise and online” while sharing operational functions. EMS will also maintain offices in Peterborough, N.H., where it maintains offices for merchandising, product design and Web operations and its call center.
“The steps we have taken at EMS are difficult ones, but we believe they are in the best long-term interests of the business,” said Walsh, adding that Manzer’s “product and industry knowledge are superior and he will be of great help to me as I work with the EMS team to ensure the strength of the EMS brand with outdoor enthusiasts. The Vestis platform will enable us to improve the operations of Bob’s and EMS while growing each business independently with separate customer and brand strategies.”
Versa, a Philadelphia-based private equity firm headed by Greg Segall as ceo and controlling shareholder, acquired EMS in November and picked up Bob’s, previously owned by The TJX Cos. Inc., in 2008. It also owns the Avenue plus-size specialty chain after its acquisition of certain assets of United Retail Group last April.
“We believe the retail industry for outdoor apparel and gear holds great promise, and our firm has been active in the space for many years,” Segall said. “We are committed to ensuring that each of our companies in the space — including Bob’s and EMS — have the resources and infrastructure to achieve sustainable success in this dynamic sector over the long term.”
Versa noted that Vestis financing requirements would be addressed through a new $95 million revolving credit facility from Wells Fargo Bank N.A.