Stein Mart Net Up, Sales Down

Shares move ahead 5.8% on earnings beat in quarter.

Tightly managed inventories and expenses, as well as a tax benefit, helped Stein Mart Inc. amass a nearly sevenfold increase in fourth-quarter profits.


Earnings at the discount chain shot up to $18.8 million, or 42 cents a diluted share, from $2.7 million, or 6 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding the tax benefit, income for the period ended Jan. 29 totaled 32 cents a share, topping analyst estimates of 21 cents.


Sales slid 1.5 percent to $336.7 million from $341.8 million as comparable-store sales fell 1.2 percent.


The performance helped buoy the company’s shares 51 cents, or 5.8 percent, to $9.33 Thursday.


“Increasing sales by attracting more customers and building our share of their wallet continues to be the top priority,” said David Stovall Jr., president and chief executive officer, on a conference call with analysts.  “ While consistent comp-store sales growth has taken longer than we would like, we’re confident that our strategic initiatives are beginning to take hold.”


Stovall said the firm’s strategic plan included an emphasis on “distinctive merchandise at great values” as well as marketing designed to appeal to younger and multicultural shoppers. Over the past year, Stein Mart has added over 60 brands to its assortment, including Anne Klein and Not Your Daughter’s Jeans.


For the year, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based retailer more than doubled its profits to $48.8 million, or $1.08 a diluted share, from $23.6 million, or 54 cents, a year earlier. Sales slipped 3.1 percent to $1.18 billion from $1.22 billion.