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Stein Mart Upgrades Home, Targets Northeast

Jacksonville, Fla. — Stein Mart reiterated its strategy to make 2006 its “best year ever” as it pursues its fastest new store opening schedule in several years and tweaks its newly implemented home division.

“We are looking forward to making this the best year we've ever had,” said Jay Stein, chairman of the board, during last week's annual meeting here.

During the first quarter, the home department was transitioned with new trend-right merchandise and a shift in focus that stresses seasonal lifestyle coordinate stories through fashion bedding, individual upholstered furniture pieces and accessories, and de-emphasizes utility bedding and some tabletop aspects.

Michael Fisher, president and ceo, said the chain will open 16 new units this fiscal year. Some will be in the Northeast, particularly New York and New Jersey, “where we have a lot of interest in growing,” he said. One recently opened unit is in the uncharted Stein Mart territory of Queens, N.Y. Other targeted areas are Florida, Texas, California and the Carolinas. About eight underperforming stores will be closed this year.

Fisher explained that newer stores have been generating $5 million in sales in their first 12 months of operation – “much more” than the $4 million to $4.5 million newer units were previously generating.

Stein Mart recently upgraded its Web site, www.steinmart.com, but there are still no product purchase capabilities in place. Fisher told HTT opportunities are being explored for fulfillment. “We're looking into new initiatives online, but not just yet,” he said.

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