NEW YORK — Michael Fisher, president and chief operating officer of Stein Mart Inc., will succeed Jack Williams Jr. as chief executive officer of the company at the close of the current fiscal year.

This story first appeared in the June 4, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The announcement was made at the annual meeting of the Jacksonville, Fla.-based 263-unit soft goods retailer. Williams will continue his association with Stein Mart as vice chairman, a title that will also be taken by Gwen Manto, who will continue as Stein Mart’s chief merchandising officer but relinquish the title of executive vice president. Fisher will continue to hold the titles of president and chief operating officer.

Williams has been with Stein Mart since 1980, when it consisted of three units. He became president in 1990 and took the ceo post from chairman and founder Jay Stein last year.

“Although technically Jack became the chief executive officer just last summer, in truth, he’s been my chief executive for more than two decades now,” Stein told stockholders.

In the first quarter ended May 4, Stein Mart’s net income during the quarter ascended 24.5 percent to $11.4 million, or 27 cents a share, from $9.1 million, or 22 cents, in the year-ago quarter. Bottom-line results beat analysts’ estimates of 23 cents by 4 cents. The firm initially projected profits to be flat for the quarter.

Sales for the quarter strengthened by 12.3 percent to $356 million, compared with $317.1 million a year ago. Comparable-store sales inched up 0.9 percent.

Year-ago results were adjusted by Stein Mart to account for the firm’s shift to the standard retail fiscal calendar.

In a statement, Williams attributed the strong results to “enthusiastic customer acceptance of our fashion assortment, particularly in the boutique, ladies’ accessories and gifts areas. This strong response and our progress in inventory planning and allocation resulted in improved merchandise sell-through and profit margins.”

Gross margins were up 92 basis points as a percent of sales. However, selling, general and administrative expenses increased by 32 basis points.

For 2002, Stein Mart’s now looking for earnings of 70 to 75 cents a share, 5 cents above the firm’s previously expected range, and ahead of the Street’s projection of 65 cents. Stein Mart expects part of this improvement to be driven by a low- to mid-single-digit comp increase.”

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