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Stein Mart Counting On Jones

Jacksonville, Fla. — Stein Mart Inc. formally introduced home area Vice President and General Merchandise Manager Kassie Jones during its annual meeting here last week, pointing out that the company expects her to boost the category after it suffered lagging results in 2004.

Stein Mart’s home business last year was hampered by weak performances in linens and tabletop. Jones, who joined the company less than a month ago, was brought on board to shift home into a more positive direction.

“At this point in time, Kassie is digesting Stein Mart and what we are about,” Michael Fisher, president and CEO, said. “We want her to develop a new strategy and focus home for us. And we think by this fall we’ll be better organized, and her new strategies should be in place for spring ’06.”

Gifts and linens currently make up 17 percent of Stein Mart’s merchandise mix. Ladies and boutique apparel is the core offering, at 41 percent, trailed by men’s goods, which comprise 18 percent. Ladies’ accessories are 12 percent, shoes make up 7 percent, children’s is 3 percent and the remaining 2 percent is comprised of miscellaneous items.

Aside from improvements to the home business, Stein Mart has other initiatives in place for this fiscal year, including a target-customer research survey — a multi-faceted study intended to extract from shoppers suggestions about businesses the retailer should add, remove, expand or reduce, the company said.

Also this year, Stein Mart expects to open 15 new stores, including one relocated site. It will close eight units.

Stein Mart’s 2004 net income was $38 million, representing the second highest amount recorded by the retailer. Sales increased 8 percent overall and more than 9 percent in comp sales. By category, mens and ladies sportswear were most successful in the apparel business, followed by fashion accessories for ladies.

Stein Mart said these numbers were the result of efforts to increasing new and current merchandise, coupled with a decrease in sale and clearance merchandise in inventory. In 2004, Stein Mart’s promotional calendar was synchronized with its fashion and clearance seasons.

In operations, the company implemented a new receiving system, and tested new cash registers that make it easier for associates to conduct transactions. Stein Mart also refurbished some of its dated stores, adding fresh paint, new carpeting and some new fixtures.

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