Pros: Great people on the Store level
Cons: Corporate culture
Eastern Mountain Sports is a knowledgeable outdoor retailer with a credible and friendly approach. Like most retail, the entry level associates spend most of their time helping customers, stocking the sales floor and cleaning. Also like most retail, the quality of your managers can be a roll of the dice. I was lucky to have had fantastic store and regional managers. The people you work with day-to-day are awesome people who are passionate about the outdoors and support each other.
While the lower-levels of the company are knowledgeable and dedicated, the top management come from other retail backgrounds and may not fully understand the outdoor world. Their purchasing choices show a bit of a tin ear and a lack of communication (or perhaps thoroughness) causes errors that fall to the individual store to figure out how to fix. So store-level management is often faced with a corporate structure that gives incomplete, contradictory or flat-out incorrect information. Support for store management is weak, so you'd better be ready to put in the extra time and homework to solve the riddles of task completion.
There is always some degree of tension between stores and corporate in retail, so no surprises there. In short, EMS is a great place to work as a low-level associate but if you are looking for a management position or to move up into a career then be prepared to deal with a somewhat juvenile and dysfunctional corporate culture. At least the people you're next to in the store are great.