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Ed Howell, EMS president, and CEO, has resigned. EMS, which has a policy of not speaking to the press under any circumstances, issued the following statement: “We regret to inform you that Ed Howell, president & CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports, has resigned from his position and will be leaving the company effective July 12, 2002. During Ed’s tenure with EMS, great strides were made in the development and enhancement of our brand, business results and organizational effectiveness. Though his achievements are too numerous to describe in this letter, you should know that, since he became president in 1998, EMS has opened 21 stores, substantially improved profitability and has grown sales volume by approximately 20 percent. We sincerely thank Ed for his contributions not only to EMS, but also to the entire ARG/COMARK family.” SNEWS® View: While the company public position is that this resignation is purely for personal reasons, as long as EMS has a habit of not talking to the press, we’re left to speculate. And the speculation is not all rosy. Consider that the company’s GMM resigned in January and, though EMS has been interviewing candidates, the position has yet to be filled. Now Howell resigns, leaving EMS without a president or CEO as well. Curious to say the least! We do know that EMS is making money and that — according to sources in and out of the company who will speak about EMS only off the record — the retailer hopes to open as many as 10 new stores this year. The kicker is, ARG (American Retail Group), the parent company of EMS, owns other retailers, mostly apparel ones, and it becomes very clear when you go into an EMS store (which we have) that the higher margin offering of an apparel focus is stronger than ever. It appears to us that EMS is also beginning to play the price game and once there, extrication becomes virtually impossible. We wonder too about some of the less than desirable mall locations, leaving EMS (and they’re not the only retailer in this leaking boat) with stores that are costing way too much in long-term leases for the return on investment. And we are then left wondering if all this played into Howell deciding to resign now, rather than wait a few months until a GMM could be hired. Then again, perhaps Howell had a five-year plan and having arrived at the end of it, stayed true to his intentions. Or, perhaps Howell decided that if he was going to leave, now is the best time allowing the company to bring in a new CEO who could, in turn, hire his or her own GMM. Either way, Howell is a talent that EMS will miss and, we’re sure, will find a home at another company very soon.