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Stein Mart sees brighter future

JACKSONVILLE , Fla. — Stein Mart is anticipating an upturn in its sputtering home business beginning in the second half of this year and into spring as a result of new leadership and other improvements, the company said during its first quarter conference call today.

“The home area continues to lag, but we have hired a new (general merchandise manager) over home and look forward to getting a new perspective on this important vision,” said Michael Fisher, president and CEO. He was referring to the recent appointment of Kassie Jones as vice president and general merchandising manager for the home area.

Helped by stronger sales and margins, coupled with the complete elimination of interest expense, Stein Mart drove first quarter earnings up 45.8 percent, to $16.8 million. Sales rose 4.7 percent to $380.7 million, and comps improved 3.2 percent.

Wall Street and investors responded to the good news by pushing the retailer's stock up almost 10 percent in value in mid-day trading after the news came out. Stein Mart stock shot up 9.8 percent, or $2.29 a share, to $25.72. Action in the stock was unusually heavy — by mid-day more than tripling the average daily trading volume.

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