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Stein Mart Swings to Second-Quarter Profit

With a higher gross margin and lower inventories, Stein Mart reported a second quarter profit of $1.5 billion, or 4 cents per share, compared to a loss of 8.0 million, or 19 cents per share, in last year's second quarter.

Sales for the period ended Aug. 1 fell 7.7% to $287.5 million, while comps declined 4.5%. Gross margin rose to 26.2% from 23.8% in the year-ago period.

"The environment remains difficult, but I think we're growing accustomed to the diminished consumer appetite," said David Stovall, president and ceo, during last month's quarterly conference call.

Stein Mart doesn't anticipate consumers will change their shopping behavior in the near term and continues to plan conservatively, he added.

A new marketing plan launched in the second quarter is attracting some younger customers to the apparel department, the company said. Home "continues to underperform," he said.

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