• Andrea Lillo

Stein Mart pursues conservative expansion

Stein Mart will continue its conservative store opening schedule this year, adding 14 stores and closing four for a total of 275 by year end. Nine of these will open in the first half, including its first store in the Washington metro area, in Chevy Chase, MD, and two Collections of Stein Mart, its smaller-format store.

Still being tested, the Collections format, if successful, "will open up a new tier of markets for us," said Mike Fisher, president. Though only five stores are slated to open in the fall, the retailer can respond quickly, he added, if the economy begins to recover.

Home linens was one of the categories with positive trends for the quarter, said Gwen Manto, chief merchandising officer, particularly in sheets, comforters, and utility bedding. "Luxury looks and coordination across all categories continue as key elements for this business," she added.

In addition, Fisher said that its inventory has been lower year-over-year every quarter since fourth quarter 2001, allowing them to reduce borrowing, lower markdowns, and increase inventory turns. "Inventory management is at the heart of our profitability progress… Our goal is to make every inventory dollar work harder."

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