EMS to close eight stores; Berkshire Mall outlet unaffected


LANESBOROUGH >> Eastern Mountain Sports is closing eight stores after its owner filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but its outlet in the Berkshire Mall is not among them.

Connecticut-based Vestis Retail Group LLC, which owns EMS, Bob's Stores and Sport Chalet, has filed for bankruptcy protection in Delaware with as much as $500 million in debt, according to the Boston Herald.

Vestis is planning to close the entire 47-store Sport Chalet chain, which is located in Arizona, California and Nevada, and has proposed selling EMS and Bob's to Versa Capital Management LLC of Philadelphia, according to a news release.

A private equity backer, Versa had acquired EMS and Bob's separately in 2012 and 2008, respectively, then combined them under the Vestis label. Versa also owns retailers Avenue Stores and The Wet Seal, and performance manufacturer Polartec.

The sale requires court approval, and Vestis expects to complete the transaction by mid-summer.

EMS, which sells outdoors and camping gear, is closing its Foxborough store — one of 13 in Massachusetts. The chain also is closing two stores in New Jersey, and single stores in Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia. Bob's, an apparel and footwear retailer, is closing one store in South Portland, Maine.

Vestis Chief Executive Mark T. Walsh told the Wall Street Journal that the increasing popularity of online shopping combined with this winter's unseasonably warm weather added to the financial problems at both EMS and Bob's.

Founded by two Wellesley climbers in 1967, EMS is the second largest U.S. multi-channel retailer of human-powered outdoor sports apparel and equipment with stores in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic states. The chain has operated a store in the Berkshire Mall since 2000.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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