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Stein Mart: Linens lag as home hums

Jacksonville, Fla. – It is the gifts – not the linens – that keep giving at Stein Mart, where the home business was boosted during the first quarter by renewed emphasis in this category and home décor.

The 270-unit specialty mid-price chain saw its gifts division perform “slightly better than the company’s trend, with gifts and home décor segments positive for the quarter,” noted William Moll, evp and cmo, during Stein Mart Inc.’s quarterly earnings call today.

But not all was rewarding in home, Moll said, adding “Linens continued to be the most challenging area of the store.”

To build on the momentum in gifts and home décor, Stein Mart is concentrating on opening up both the range of price points and the selection in this division, “with renewed emphasis on gifts and sharper pricing on some home décor,” he said.

And to help along the lagging linens, the plan is to continue to focus on “enticing customers with attractive products and pricing,” such as with the introduction of a new bath shop assortment this summer, and the expansion of the Nina Campbell brand –“which has been successful in top-of-bed,” Moll said -- into towels, bath rugs and additional bedding assortments.

Michael Fisher, president and ceo, described the first quarter as “a rollercoaster for us, confronting winter storms in February, enjoying a robust March with the best monthly comp performance in some time, and suffering through a very substantial comp decline in April,” which experienced severe cold weather.

He added that Stein Mart’s successes, “and there were several, were ultimately overshadowed by a significant shortfall in revenue and the resulting inability to leverage higher cost.”

For the first quarter ended May 5, earnings rose 6.6% to $8.1 million, or 18 cents per share. Sales bumped up 3.1% to $376.8 million, while comps dropped 2.0%.

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