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Stein Mart profits fall almost 87% in first quarter

Jacksonville, Fl — Pressured by falling sales, thinning margins and rising costs, first-quarter profits at off-price retailer Stein Mart Inc. dropped off by 86.7 percent, to $1.5 million from $11.4 million a year ago.

Sales fell by 7.1 percent, to $330.6 million from $356.0 million last year. The crucial gauge of same-store sales fell by 9.3 percent.

Taking a big bite out of the bottom line, and under heavy markdown pressure as the retailer cleaned up its inventories, average gross margin was squeezed thinner by 180 basis points, or 1.8 percentage points, declining to 25.3 percent from 27.1 percent. Caught between the falling sales and eroding margins, gross margin dollars tumbled by 13.3 percent, to $83.7 million from $96.5 million.

Hurt by falling sales, operating costs jumped up by 280 basis points, or 2.8 percentage points, to 25.6 percent of sales from 22.8 percent a year ago. Measured in absolute dollars, costs increased by 4.0 percent$84.5 million from $81.3 million.

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