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Stein Mart focused on "Home Reinvent" plan to grow home - again

Jacksonville, Fla. - Stein Mart Inc. said it is aggressively working to regain the business it lost over the past five years in its home department with a recently embarked its "Home Reinvent" initiative that is already making progress.

During the mid-tier off-price department store's presentation this morning at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2010 Smid Cap Conference, president and ceo David Stovall Jr. outlined several steps Stein Mart has made and is making to improve its lagging home product performance, with special attention on the home textiles categories.

He said that about five years ago, home comprised about 20% of Stein Mart's total business; today, that number has shrunk to 12%.

Stovall admitted that while the home business began to show recently a "turnaround" at other major chains, "it didn't at Stein Mart."

In an attempt to mend this, Stein altered its home assortment to include more promotional goods. But the effort backfired.
"We traded it down. We went cheaper, went real commodity. The merchandise wasn't special, wasn't distinctive," he said.

Stein Mart then took another approach. The retailer installed a new leadership team in its home business "and said we are going to reinvent it - top to bottom."

Today, about 30% of the home department ay Stein Mart stores reflects the "reinvent" changes, with "the biggest change" in the home textiles segment, he said.

By August, 90% of the home department will be updated and revamped, with "the whole gift and home décor and stationary - all of those businesses back in place," Stovall continued.

The goal is to "return home to a destination for the Stein Mart customer. We lost that position. And we think it has a tremendous effect on our total business. The customer came to Stein Mart for that special gift and we were at mass merchant prices. So you'll see that whole thing change."

Results are already evident, he noted.

"The positive news is that we've seen a turnaround already in the home business," Stovall said. "And it's been driven by clearing out of all that low-price stuff, but most of it driven by the new receipts."

Later in the presentation, Stovall added that while Stein Mart's home area is admittedly "going to turn half as fast as women's apparel, it will be profitable and we think it is worth the investment."

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