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Home ‘troubled’ at Stein Mart

Jacksonville,Fla.– Linens was one of Stein Mart’s “greater challenges” during the fourth quarter and all of last year as its home division “languished” and the mid-tier department store tried to recoup this segment of its business.

William Moll, evp and cmo, said during the 270-unit chain’s earnings call today, “We are looking at all aspects of the area – packaging, price points, value assortments, etc., and our new gmm in that area is focusing on getting this right.”

For fiscal year 2006, Stein Mart reported net income of $37.1 million, down 27.1% from earnings of $50.9 million in the prior year. Sales of $1.5 billion were up 1.3%, while comp sales were down 1.2%. In the 14-week fourth quarter, earnings were flat at $21.0 million, while sales rose 7.9% to $461.0 million; comps rose 0.9%.

Over the past year in home, the company has moved away from utility and more toward fashion, home décor and entertaining. “We are pleased with most of the decorative home and gift parts of that division,” Moll said. “We are still trying to re-engineer the tabletop area, and we are re-introducing some categories of gift-able merchandise and stationery.”

Home makes up about 14% of Stein Mart’s total sales, said Michael Fisher, president and ceo. He said that while home is a “troubled category,” it has been that way for other retailers, as well, and the plan going forward is to “continue to rework our assortments and find a sweet spot. And we’ve made some progress. Last year we had substantial improvements in home decor and home furnishings areas, and we still have work to do in tabletop. We’re adding some new categories in that family of business and we’re looking at every part of our home textiles business.”

A bright spot of home has been designer-driven Nina by Nina Campbell, with the recent launch described by Moll as “very good.” The retailer dedicated six pages to the line in its direct mail piece in February.

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