(This story was updated on 9/26/2023.)
Update: Eastern Mountain Sports has joined 1% of the Planet.
GoDigital Media Group, which focuses on music, video, and brand intellectual property rights management, acquired Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) and Bob’s from U.K.-based Frasers Group for $70 million last year.
“This is a growth play,” Jason Peterson, GoDigital’s Chief Executive Officer, said in a call with The Daily.
EMS owns more than 20 locations in seven northeastern U.S. states. It offers gear and apparel from brands including The North Face, Oboz, Thule and Columbia. Bob’s focuses on apparel, footwear and workwear and operates 27 stores in the northeast region of the U.S.
Since the acquisition last May, GoDigital has opened two more EMS stores, one in Burlington, Vermont, and another in Burlington, Massachusetts, and it plans to open at least two more.
Up until this point, EMS has primarily operated as a regional business.
But that could be changing.
“You’re going to see us double-down on product innovation and private label, while at the same time expanding our e-commerce and physical retail footprint,” Peterson said.
“We feel like there’s a growth opportunity here to really bring the joy that this brand has created for millions of people to a broader audience. You’ll see the footprint growing.”
The company is also considering expanding into Canada.
Previous owner Frasers Group (then called Sports Direct) had acquired EMS and Bob’s Stores for $101 million in 2017 from Eastern Outfitters, which had filed for bankruptcy.
E-commerce, Private Label Strategy
Kevin Campbell, executive vice president of operations for EMS and Bob’s, pointed to the launch of the new flagship retail location in Burlington, Vermont, as an example of the success of the acquisition.
“We are dedicated to enhancing our e-commerce platform, amplifying our marketing efforts, and exploring new opportunities for brand expansion,” he added. “This synergy has the potential to elevate our brand to new heights.”
EMS has a strong e-commerce presence, but Peterson pointed out that from a broad industry view, brick-and-mortar retail is growing faster than e-commerce.
“The business has a very validated, profitable, repeating and scaling model when it comes to physical retail,” he added. “They know how to do that very well.”
However, Peterson sees room for improvement on the e-commerce front.
“We’re going to be doubling down on increasing our capabilities in that area,” he added. “We have to ultimately get the EMS brand on par with its competitive set on the national and international stage.”
Peterson emphasized that EMS has its own private label brand in a number of categories that it sells alongside other outdoor brands.
EMS is in the process of updating the private label line with new technology, features, functionality, and sustainable fabrics, according to Kerry Muricchio, executive vice president of global merchandise management for EMS and Bob’s. The company is also working on a special collaboration line with the Mount Washington Observatory, a private, non-profit scientific and educational institution.
Headquartered in Marina Del Rey, California, GoDigital is a diversified multinational conglomerate that focuses on technology-enabled and vertically integrated intellectual property rights management.
The company started in music and added video to its portfolio.
Peterson said every business in the company’s group “inspires happiness in a little bit different way.”
For EMS, that’s by connecting people with nature.
“Thematically, it fits quite well,” Peterson said.
GoDigital is taking a brand management approach to EMS.
“We’re going to grow this brand beyond being a regional player,” Peterson said.
To do that, they might only use the EMS initials rather than the full name.
“With a name that’s geographically centered, that might be a little challenging in some contexts,” Peterson said.
According to GoDigital research, customers think very highly of the EMS brand, giving it a rating that is “incredible,” Peterson said.
Peterson added that EMS checks all the boxes of content, community, and commerce that GoDigital looks for in an acquisition.
“It fits our methodology in terms of being technology-enabled and vertically integrated,” he said.
With this acquisition, GoDigital added 900 employees, 42 stores, and a warehouse and fulfillment center.
As the retail industry struggles with inventory challenges, Peterson would like the company to get better at demand planning, SKU management, and how it merchandises its stores.
Supply chain risk is also top of mind. As global politics grow more tense between China and the United States, Peterson would like to build more durability into its manufacturing and fabric supply chain.
Looking ahead, GoDigital continues to evaluate more acquisitions, according to Peterson. It’s seeking out complementary brands that have durable intellectual property.
Starting April 30, EMS will begin a partnership with 1% for the Planet, an international organization whose members contribute at least 1% of their annual revenue to environmental causes to protect the environment.
“As an organization that deeply cares about the environment and the impact we have on the planet, joining this community will allow EMS and Bob’s to make a meaningful contribution to the global effort to create a more sustainable future,” said David Barton, CEO of EMS and Bob’s.
“As a member of 1%, we will donate 1% of annual revenue of EMS branded products to support environmental non-profits.”
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.