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Stein Mart bent on reviving soft home   

Jacksonville, Fla. – Home lagged behind most other departments at Stein Mart in 2007, but a home textiles revival will be led by both fashion and promotional activity, the retailer said during today’s annual meeting of shareholders here.

Bill Moll, evp and chief merchandising officer of the 280-store Southeastern regional department store chain, said two brands will soon join the centerpiece exclusive program in soft home, Nina Campbell – which he said is “doing fine.”

At the same time, Moll said Stein Mart will get more promotional in merchandising, including in the soft home area, and may add a new, lower price point level to the mix.

In a 40-store test, about 15% of the home department will be taken away and used to expand the kids’ apparel floor – but most of that space will come from cutting out accent furniture. A key strength in home, meanwhile, is the gift and décor segment.

As seen in a local Jacksonville store, a larger-format Stein Mart today offers three bed vignettes to anchor the department, with a Nina Campbell ensemble front and center. A wall of utility bedding – including some Ralph Lauren pillows – is offset by a solid color towel wall, again centered on Nina Campbell goods.

The soft home range of brands runs from Avanti and Kassatex in bath goods Newport in dec pillows to Thro in blankets and pet beds. Fashion impact is strong, currently telling more of a tonal story than a print-driven one. A grouping of smaller accent rugs and promotional comforter sets rounds out the department.

Stein Mart plans to increase the proportion of name brands in its assortment to 50%, Moll said.

Linda Farthing, president and ceo, acknowledged that the fourth quarter of 2007 was the worst in company history – but she predicted the $1.46 billion company will rebound in part by bringing back its original value and taste-level offering to consumers.

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