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Stein Mart closes 2012 on high note, revs up for e-commerce

Jacksonville, Fla. -- Stein Mart reported steady increases in sales and net income in the recent fiscal year, paving the way for the company to break into ecommerce.

The retailer plans to launch the new online business in mid to late 2013 with a representative merchandise selection.

"This will enable us to reach new customers and increase our share of existing customers' spend through a multi-channel approach," explained Jay Stein, ceo.

Stein Mart expects to incur approximately $3 million in start-up costs related to the e-commerce launch, coupled with another effort -- the transition of its supply chain from third-party to company-operated locations.

Stein warned the ecommerce initiative will have a negative impact on the bottom line impact in 2013 from start-up costs and margins "that are lower than for our brick and mortar stores due to relatively high fulfillment costs at our initial expected sales volume levels."

Stein Mart's fourth quarter net income soared 128% to $13.5 million or 30 cents per share. Total sales grew 11.4% to $368.6 million, and comparable store sales were up 6.0%.

For the full fiscal year, which was 53 weeks versus 2011's 52 weeks, net income grew 25.6% to $25.0 million or 57 cents per share. Total sales rose 4.6% to $1.23 billion, and comparable store sales increased 2.7%.

Stein attributed the performance to "returning to those things that made this company great, including a compelling merchandise assortment, selectively lowering merchandise prices and controlling regular-price couponing," said Stein.

In 2013, the company plans to continue with controlled couponing and even lower prices on selected merchandise, he said.

On the real estate front, Stein Mart expects to open four stores, close three stores and relocate four stores to better locations in their respective markets in 2013.

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