By  on March 24, 2008

Stein Mart Inc. swung to a fourth-quarter loss, hurt by steep markdowns to move merchandise.

For the three months ended Feb. 2, the company posted a loss of $12.1 million, or 30 cents a diluted share, from a profit of $21.1 million, or 48 cents, in the year-ago period.

Sales for the quarter declined 9.4 percent to $417.4 million from $461 million last year. Total same-store sales tumbled 6.2 percent.

In 2007, Stein Mart lost $4.5 million, or 11 cents a diluted share, from a profit of $37.2 million, or 85 cents, a year earlier. Sales fell 2.9 percent to $1.46 billion from $1.5 billion.

"We will be controlling inventory very tightly, and we have already taken steps to reduce our costs to only the most necessary expenditures," said Linda Farthing, president and chief executive officer. "We will be exploring and testing several new initiatives to build on our traditional strength of meeting our shoppers' expectations with exciting merchandise and customer service."

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