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Fashion Leading Utility at Stein Mart

Stein Mart is enjoying a positive reaction to its evolving home department, and is expecting strong activity from its designer Nina by Nina Campbell line, the 268-unit retailer reported during its third-quarter earnings call.

Specifically, home décor, furniture and fashion bedding "continue to do well," while tabletop, utility bedding and the bath shop are "still a work in progress," explained William Moll, evp, chief merchandising officer. The Nina line "will be a great springboard for continued improvement for home," he added.

Today, approximately 25% of the mid-level retailer's inventory is allocated to its home areas, which Michael Fisher, president and ceo, noted were "substantially under-inventoried last third quarter as we cleared goods in anticipation of the re-launch of home."

The retailer saw third-quarter earnings slashed by 83% to $237,000 from $1.4 million for the same period one year ago. Net sales were $339.2 million, up 0.8% from $336.5 last year. Comp sales were flat at 0.2%.

"While comparable sales growth is not yet meeting our expectations, we are beginning to see improved profitability associated with recent merchandise reallocations," said Fisher, pointing to home as a key component of the new mix.

For the holiday selling season, Stein Mart will "stage" its Nina by Nina Campbell line, among other offerings like kids' gifts, wine sets and holiday barware, for "strong response," Moll continued.

Stein Mart's promotional calendar has "much more horsepower" than previous years, Fisher said. TV ads on network channels are based around morning interest shows and some early evening broadcast news. Cable ads are centered on home-related channels and programming.

"We have concentrated our efforts on opportunities for holiday selling, which we programmed earlier, as well as a more successful transition to spring than we achieve last year," he said.

This spring transition of merchandise is already being tested at some resort-area units. "We are getting reads and reacting appropriately based on these initial results," Moll indicated.

He added that Stein Mart is positioned to deliver its spring transitional merchandise earlier and with significantly more depth, compared to last year's program.

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