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Bob’s Stores and EMS in new holding company

BY Marianne Wilson

Versa Capital Management has formed a new holding company, called Eastern Outfitters, which will continue the restructured operations of Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) and Bob’s Stores.

The news comes several months after Vestis Retail Group LLC, an entity of Versa that operated Bob’s, EMS and Sport Chalet, filed for Chapter 11. The company subsequently shut down Sport Chalet. EMS and Bob’s will now operate as business units of Eastern Outfitters, which will have over $400 million in annual revenue and be headquartered in Meriden, Connecticut. The company will be under the leadership of Mark Walsh, who served as CEO of Vestis and will now hold the same title at Eastern Outfitters.

“Today is a new day for our customers, employees and partners,” said Walsh. “We move forward with a focused strategy and strengthened capital structure that will enable EMS and Bob’s to prosper. We are excited to begin this new chapter and the growth trajectory we have outlined for our future.”

The two retailers will continue to focus on advancing their positions among their core demographic groups in the Eastern and Mid-Atlantic regions.

“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 CEO of Versa. “We appreciate the significant support the companies received from their trade creditors. 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.”

Based in Philadelphia, Versa Capital Management is a private equity investment firm with more than $1.4 billion of assets. Other retailers in Versa's portfolio include Avenue Stores, The Wet Seal and western restaurant chain Black Angus Steakhouses.

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Supermarket giant announces exec retirement, promotions

BY Marianne Wilson

The Kroger Co. on Tuesday announced a series of management changes.

The retailer said Bill Breetz, president of its Houston division, will retire effective Aug. 26. Breetz began his Kroger career in 1972 as a bagger in Louisville, Kentucky, and went on to hold several leadership positions at the chain.

Marlene Stewart, who currently serves as president of the company's Dillons division, will succeed Breetz.

Colleen Juergensen will succeed Stewart as president of Dillons. She currently serves as VP of merchandising of the Smith's division.

Kroger also announced the promotion of Pam Matthews to serve as president of the company's QFC division. Matthews currently serves as VP of operations for Kroger's Delta division. She succeeds Dennis Gibson, who was recently named president of the King Soopers/City Market division.

"Kroger has an exceptionally strong team of leaders who are fueling our growth and improving our connection with customers," said Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO. "Marlene, Colleen and Pam bring unmatched depth and experience to their new roles. They will help Kroger continue to make a difference for our customers, associates, and communities – and by doing so create value for our shareholders."

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Study: Wearable technology – hype or hope?

BY CSA STAFF

Wearable technology has a way to go before it becomes mainstream, but perhaps not as far as some observers think.

According to a new study of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers from loyalty intelligence provider Colloquy, “Weighing in on Wearables,” retailers looking to open a wearable commerce channel need to change some widely held consumer perceptions. For example, 63% of respondents said they would be deterred from purchasing a wearable device because it is too expensive. And 61% of respondents who would buy a wearable for health and fitness reasons said they are too old for the technology.

Slightly more than half (52%) of respondents said they don’t know enough about wearables or understand how they work. About one in three (32%) have concerns about fraud and/or privacy.

However, in terms of how wearable devices look and feel, consumers are fairly receptive to the emerging technology form. Only 8% of respondents said wearable devices are unattractive or they don’t like how they look. Thirty-five percent said people who use wearables are nerdy, but “cool nerdy,” which presumably is positive. And only 8% said the devices are uncomfortable.

Of particular interest to retailers, 27% of respondents said “I used to hate shopping, but now with my wearable I love it.” Fifteen percent said they look forward to expanding their use of the technology.

Based on these results, Colloquy advises retailers to devise wearable customer engagement strategies that suggest actions customers already want to take and provide triggers to do them at that moment. They should also ensure that customers in every age range feel that they understand wearable devices and are capable of using them.

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