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Stein Mart profits up 660 percent

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Climbing back on track after building sales and margins, while slashing costs, stockpiles and interest expense; Southeastern off-pricer Stein Mart Inc. pushed profits more than seven-fold higher during the opening quarter, up 661.1 percent, to $11.7 million from $1.7 million last year.

Driving much of the earnings performance, sales climbed at a double-digit pace, improving 10.8 percent, to $363.6 million from $328.2 million. Same-store sales grew even faster, rising 11.2 percent.

Lending strength to the bottom line, average gross margin widened 180 basis points, or 1.8 percentage points, to 27.2 percent from 25.4 percent a year ago, due to higher initial mark-up and better occupancy leverage, partially offset by an increase in markdowns, the retailer said.

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