While some other retailers have faltered recently, Stein Mart Inc. has been increasing sales and expects to continue growing, company officials told shareholders Tuesday.
“We have all the tools necessary to do that,” Chairman and CEO Jay Stein said at the Jacksonville-based company’s annual meeting at The Museum of Science and History.
Stein Mart has recorded eight consecutive quarters of comparable-store sales growth, or sales at stores open for more than one year, President and Chief Operating Officer D. Hunt Hawkins said.
However, the fashion retailer is looking at additional sales growth beyond the existing stores.
“We remain excited about the growth opportunities as we open new stores,” Hawkins said.
Stein Mart, which operated 264 stores in 29 states at the end of fiscal 2013, plans to open 10 new stores this year, while it relocates six existing stores and closes two.
“That’s our largest (store growth) since 2007 and we expect it to be even bigger next year,” Hawkins said.
He said the company has identified 125 possible locations for new stores, mainly in existing markets. Hawkins said after the meeting that the company is also looking at new markets such as some areas of California.
Stein Mart is also generating additional sales through initiatives such as its private-label credit card, which it introduced two years ago. Hawkins said customers with the Stein Mart credit card spend 50 percent more at the stores than other customers.
Another initiative is the company’s e-commerce website, which was launched last year. Stein Mart lost money on the e-commerce business last year, because of start-up costs, and expects to lose money again this year. “But this is a significant opportunity for us on a long-term basis,” Hawkins said.
Stein Mart has been in a turnaround mode since the last recession ended in 2009 and Stein said after the meeting that he is very optimistic about the company’s outlook.
“We’d like to erase some years that we did not perform as well,” said Stein, who re-assumed the role of CEO on an interim basis in 2011 and became permanent CEO again a year ago. He had stepped down as CEO in 2001 and had been chairman only.
“We are delighted we’ve built a team to accommodate the kind of business we’re doing here,” he said.
At the meeting, shareholders elected former Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver to the board of directors after a six-year absence. Weaver had previously served on Stein Mart’s board from 2000 through 2008.
“I’ve got more time, number one,” Weaver said when asked why he rejoined the board.
“Second, Jay Stein is a great friend and he asked me,” he said.
“It’s a good company. I enjoyed my time on the board before,” Weaver said.
Weaver is chairman and a board member of one other public company, Shoe Carnival Inc.