Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) and Bob’s Stores will now operate under a new holding company called Eastern Outfitter LLC, a Versa Capital Management LLC affiliate.
Versa Capital purchased EMS in 2012. It then combined EMS with Bob’s Stores in a retail platform called Vestis Retail Group. Mark Walsh, who was chief executive officer of Bob’s, took on the same role at EMS at that time. EMS was also restructured as the distribution center, and other operations were closed. Most of EMS’s operations were combined with Bob’s.
Vestis Retail Group, which also included the Sport Chalet retail chain recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April. It was decided at that time to shut down all of the struggling Sports Chalet stores. By establishing the new holding company, Versa can untie from the weak retailer and focus on the more promising chains. At the time of the bankruptcy filing, Vestis said it was closing eight Eastern Mountain stores and one Bob’s location.
“It’s a continuation of where they were prior to bankruptcy,” said Rivian Bell, a spokesperson for Versa Capital. The two companies will continue to operate separately she said. Eastern Mountain is an outdoor-apparel chain, while Bob’s is a value-oriented retailer.
“We are pleased that this transaction provides EMS and Bob’s — two strong and growing retailers — the opportunity to continue providing exceptional service to their loyal customer bases,” said Gregory L. Segall, chairman and chief executive officer of Versa. “We appreciate the significant support the companies received from their trade creditors. Their affirmation of the important positions EMS and Bob’s hold in their respective markets was a major catalyst for this successful and accelerated restructuring.
“With an enhanced capital structure and healthy balance sheet, EMS and Bob’s now have the flexibility they need to prosper in the current retail environment that rewards brands that offer unique products with highly attentive customer service at attractive price points,” said Segall. “The Versa team and I look forward to continuing our close collaboration with Mark Walsh and his leadership team to advance Eastern Outfitters at every level.”
EMS has faced competition from the quickly growing specialty outdoor retailer REI and the chain Dick’s Sporting Goods. Like Sports Chalet, The Sports Authority also filed for bankruptcy, as consumers are shifting to sporting-goods stores with more apparel or experiential shopping.