Fisher Out, Farthing In as Stein Mart CEO

Former president of Cato Corp. moves up from board post after big drop in Q2 profits and projection of Q3 loss.

Linda McFarland Farthing, a director of Stein Mart Inc. since 1999, has been named president and chief executive officer of the company.

She succeeds Michael Fisher, who resigned from the post he’d held since 2003. Her appointment is effective on or about Sept. 24.

”We are fortunate to have someone of Linda’s caliber with our organization and believe she is an ideal choice for this position,” said Jay Stein, chairman of the Jacksonville, Fla.-based off-price retailer.

Fisher has been with Stein Mart for 14 years. His resignation comes just four days after Stein Mart reported a 73.6 percent decline in second-quarter net income, to $2.2 million, in tandem with a 1.7 percent drop in net sales, to $330.7 million, and a 1.2 percent contraction in same-store sales for the quarter.

Stein Mart also projected a loss of 3 cents to 6 cents per share in the third quarter.

Stein Mart concurrently announced the appointment of two new directors to its board, Susan Falk, group president of women’s wear at Hartmarx Corp., and Ralph Alexander, ceo of Innovene. Falk, former president of Avenue, will serve on the firm’s audit committee, while Alexander will serve on the audit and compensation committees.

A veteran of the J.B. Ivey organization, Farthing was president and chief operating officer of The Cato Corp. between 1990 and 1997 and held the same post at Friedman’s in 1998. She has chaired Stein Mart’s audit committee since 2003.

”This company has a strong and profitable history,” she said in a statement, “and a tremendous franchise of loyal customers. I look forward to a successful new chapter in that history, built on the company’s demonstrated commitment to provide great fashions at compelling prices, in a way that creates value for customers, associates and shareholders.”

Shareholder value would seem to be a factor in the changes at the store. The stock opened the day at $8.56 in Nasdaq trading, less than half its 52-week high of $18.00 reached last Nov. 15.

As of the close of the second quarter on Aug. 4, Stein Mart operated 270 stores.

For complete coverage, see Tuesday’s issue of WWD.