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Basch Report
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Mar. 21, 201905:20 AM EST

The Basch Report: Stein Mart plans return to kids’ business

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Amid declining sales, Jacksonville-based retailer says it will be back in the children’s market in stores and online this year.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

After building its brand with a target market of women aged 35 and older, fashion retailer Stein Mart Inc. is putting more emphasis in recent years on attracting new customers.

While the Jacksonville-based company tries to reach additional adult customers, it also plans to target an even younger market this year.

“In assessing our product categories, it was apparent we were missing one major business: children’s,” Stein Mart President MaryAnne Morin said during the company’s quarterly conference call last week.

“At one point kids had been a major sales contributor for Stein Mart,” she said.

“I’m happy to say we will be back in the kids business in the majority of our stores and e-comm in fall 2019.”

Stein Mart, like many national retailers, has been struggling to build sales.

The company reported total sales in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 2 dropped 11.4 percent to $340.8 million and comparable-store sales (sales at stores open for more than one year) fell 3.5 percent.

Stein Mart had 287 stores across the country at the end of the fiscal year, down from 293 at the end of fiscal 2017. 

The company is planning to close four stores in the first half of this year and not open any new locations.

Stein Mart was able to record an adjusted net profit of $3.4 million, or 7 cents a share, for the fourth quarter but for the full fiscal year, it had an adjusted net loss of $4.5 million, or 10 cents a share.

Company officials have launched a number of initiatives to improve sales, including a new advertising campaign and more emphasis on e-commerce sales.

“Although early first-quarter sales have been a bit challenging, these initiatives give us the opportunity to improve our annual results over last year,” CEO Hunt Hawkins said in the conference call.

Stein Mart is forecasting comparable-store sales this year to be flat or rise by a low single-digit percentage. Comparable-store sales are considered a key indicator of a retailer’s performance.

“Our goal is to continue to build on our sales and deliver consistent comp sales performance,” Hawkins said.

“We’re confident as our sales base grows, so will our earnings, as operating expenses leverage on those higher sales,” he said.

Worldpay idea: FIS theme park?

Robert W. Baird analyst David Koning, who has followed Fidelity National Information Services Inc. for years, had an interesting idea after it announced a $34 billion merger agreement Monday with Worldpay Inc.

The Jacksonville-based company operates under the name FIS and plans to continue with it after the merger but in a research note, Koning offered an alternative:

“We couldn’t help thinking the merged name could be FIS World, and fully needing of a big Florida-based payments theme park.”

FIS, which provides technology for financial services firms, is acquiring Cincinnati-based Worldpay to remain competitive at a time of consolidation in the industry. Worldpay provides payment processing services.

“We did not expect this, but view (Worldpay) as one of the very top assets FIS could acquire,” Koning said.

Moody’s Investors Service said in a report the merger will create “a stronger business profile” for FIS.

“The combination will substantially increase FIS’ scale and expand the company’s global distribution reach to offer digital payment and online banking solutions that cover the entire payment ecosystem, including banks and merchants,” it said.

Cannae outlines D&B plans

After leading an investment group that bought Dun & Bradstreet Corp. in February, Cannae Holdings Inc. already is working to overhaul operations of the historic business data firm.

Cannae, an investment firm spun off from title insurance company Fidelity National Financial Inc., bought Dun & Bradstreet for $7.2 billion with a group that included another company spun off from Fidelity, Jacksonville-based Black Knight Inc.

Black Knight CEO Anthony Jabbour has taken on the additional role of CEO of Dun & Bradstreet and Bill Foley, chairman of Cannae, Fidelity and Black Knight, also is the executive chairman of Dun & Bradstreet.

During Cannae’s conference call last week, President Brent Bickett said the company has started initiatives to strengthen management, cut costs and “reinvigorate” Dun & Bradstreet’s sales force.

Cannae has experience with large acquisitions and “we’re kind of taking the same script that we’ve done several times in the past,” Bickett said.

“The most important thing, candidly, is the organizational design they had was very inefficient and ineffective, and we’re trying to change that to be accountable and transparent,” he said.

“Also, their culture there, as we observed it, was accepting the mediocrity and we’re trying to change it and to become a winning team.”

Cannae is headquartered in Las Vegas but it is run by executives of Jacksonville-based Fidelity, including Bickett and Foley.

The company reported 2018 earnings of $27.6 million, or 39 cents a share.

Fidelity extends merger deadline

Fidelity last week said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing it has extended the deadline to complete its acquisition of Stewart Information Services Corp.

The $1.2 billion merger agreement was reached in March 2018 but as the company goes through a long regulatory process, Fidelity said it exercised an option to extend the date upon which either company could terminate the deal by three months to June 18.

The merger would grow Fidelity’s dominant share of the U.S. title insurance market from about 32 percent to 42 percent, so federal and state regulators are taking a close look at the deal.

Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank in merger talks

After months of market rumors, financially struggling Deutsche Bank confirmed it is discussing a merger with another major Germany-based bank, Commerzbank.

 “In light of arising opportunities, the management board of Deutsche Bank has decided to review strategic options,” Deutsche Bank said in a statement Sunday.

“In this context we confirm that we are engaging in discussions with Commerzbank,” it said.

Germany-based Deutsche Bank employs more than 2,000 people in Jacksonville but has announced plans to reduce U.S. operations to cut costs.

Bloomberg News reported in January that the bank moved 60 accounting jobs from Jacksonville to Mumbai, India, but the company did not confirm that.

APR Energy’s finances improve since buyout

APR Energy has increased its business and reduced debt since it was acquired by a group of investment firms three years ago, according to the lead investor.

Jacksonville-based APR provides fast-track power systems around the world.

Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Inc. was the largest shareholder of APR when it was publicly traded before the buyout and now owns 67.8 percent, according to Fairfax’s annual report filed last week.

Since completing the deal in the first quarter of 2016, APR’s fleet utilization has increased from 44 percent to 74 percent and its net debt had dropped from $600 million to $360 million, Fairfax said.

“The sustainability of earnings has also improved,” it said, citing two large five-year contracts to provide power in Argentina and Bangladesh.

“Going forward APR will continue to position itself as a specialty turbine fast-track power company,” Fairfax said.

Joseph Nowland

Jax Federal Credit Union names new president and CEO

Jax Federal Credit Union last week said Joseph Nowland will take over as president and CEO on April 1.

Nowland succeeds Gerri Sexsion, who announced in September she would retire after 21 years in the position.

Nowland has 24 years of experience in financial services, most recently as chief business services officer for VyStar Credit Union.

Jax Federal serves more than 36,500 members in the five-county Jacksonville metropolitan area.

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