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Versa Capital Management forms Vestis Retail Group

Private equity firm Versa Capital Management has launched Vestis Retail Group, a retail platform that comprises two retailers owned by Versa: Bob’s Stores and Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS).

EMS is the second largest US multi-channel retailer of human-powered outdoor sports apparel and equipment. Bob’s sells value-oriented footwear, apparel, work wear and accessories.

As part of Vestis, Bob’s and EMS will share certain operational functions and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, but will remain separate and distinct retail brands in stores, merchandise and online.

The capitalisation and working capital requirements of Vestis will be supported by a new USD95m revolving credit facility provided by Wells Fargo Bank. The Vestis platform has over 3,200 employees and nearly USD500m in revenue both online and through over 100 stores in 12 eastern states.

Mark Walsh, chief executive of Bob’s and a Versa principal, has been named CEO of Vestis, inclusive of EMS. Will Manzer has stepped down as CEO of EMS, effective immediately; he will serve as a consultant to Walsh during a transitional period. Working closely with Walsh to oversee EMS’s day-to-day operations in Peterborough, New Hampshire will be Garry P Herdler, interim chief financial officer of Vestis, inclusive of EMS.

Additionally, EMS, a 68-store outdoor retailer in 12 eastern states, is closing its distribution facility and several other back-office support functions in Peterborough, NH. EMS currently plans to maintain its merchandising, product design, call center and web operations in Peterborough, NH, and its climbing, paddle and outdoor schools in New England.

The moves are designed to improve EMS’s operating efficiency, inventory management and capacity to invest in the continued development and success of its brand.

“The steps we have taken at EMS are difficult ones, but we believe they are in the best long-term interests of the business,” says Walsh. “We thank all EMS employees for their hard work and dedication, and we are committed to supporting the affected employees in seeking new opportunities both within and outside of the company. Will’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.”

“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,” says Greg Segall, chief executive of Vestis’ controlling shareholder Versa Capital. “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.”

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