FINANCE

Versa Capital Management acquires Eastern Mountain Sports

BY Marianne Wilson

Philadelphia — Versa Capital Management, a Philadelphia-based private equity investment firm, has acquired Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS), effective immediately. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Mark Walsh, a Versa principal and chairman of Bob’s Stores, a northeastern apparel retailer that is part of the Versa portfolio, will serve as chairman of the board of EMS, which operates 69 stores in 12 Eastern states.

“We are pleased to welcome EMS into our organization and to further expand Versa’s retail interests,” said Gregory L. Segall, CEO of Versa Capital, in a statement. “EMS brings a 45-year history of marketing products for serious outdoor enthusiasts; as such, it is a natural fit for our existing expertise in both the retail and outdoor sectors. With a new capital structure and the other resources that Versa can offer, EMS will have many new opportunities to develop its branded products and better serve its customers.”

Plans call for exploring opportunities for Bob’s Stores and EMS to collaborate, and for maintaining all of the current EMS stores. No major initiatives will be considered until after the holiday season.

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FINANCE

Head of S.E.C. to step down

BY Staff Writer

New York — Mary L. Schapiro, the first woman to be permanent chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, announced she will step down on Dec. 14.

Schapiro was appointed head of the SEC by President Obama in 2008, one month after the Bernie Madoff scandal emerged, and she officially took office in 2009 at the peak of the financial crisis. Many experts say her four years were the toughest stretch any SEC chief has faced.

"When Mary agreed to serve nearly four years ago, she was fully aware of the difficulties facing the SEC and our economy as a whole," President Obama said in a statement. "But she accepted the challenge, and today, the SEC is stronger and our financial system is safer and better able to serve the American people – thanks in large part to Mary’s hard work."

Elisse Walter, an SEC commissioner, will replace Schapiro as SEC chairman for the foreseeable future.

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OPERATIONS

Survey: Poor in-store experiences driving showrooming

BY Staff Writer

Evanston, Ill. — Many consumers who visit a store but then buy online are not driven there by price alone, but rather by a less-than-satisfactory in-store experience, according to results from the annual holiday shopping report by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

The survey found that 59% of shoppers sampled said they received poor or average service in the stores they recently shopped. And, among shoppers who said they engaged in showrooming, 40% reported that they actually never intended to buy online, but they were driven there after experiencing poor customer service and support in stores.

"The showrooming conversation typically focuses on price as the impetus to purchase online," said Eric Anderson, Hartmarx Professor of Marketing at Kellogg. "While the growth in online shoppers is clear, our data shows that there is still a robust segment of consumers who prefer to shop brick-and-mortar stores. For retailers, this reinforces that how consumers want to shop is as strategically important as the price they are offered, and underscores the importance of face-to-face customer service."

Other findings from the Kellogg Shopper Index include:

  • Shoppers are more optimistic this season; 59% of respondents report that their household financial situation will be better in the next year. More than a quarter said they were planning on spending more on holiday gifts for others compared to last year.
  • Female shoppers are more loyal to their favorite stores, but are being lured into low-touch online channels because of poor or frustrating in-store experience.
  • Men with higher education levels and higher incomes are more likely to seek discounts by showrooming and engaging in mobile buying than women.
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