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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jan. 29, 201801:00 PM EST

Stein Mart assembles team to ‘explore all opportunities’

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Jacksonville-based fashion retailer struggles to rebuild sales.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer
Hunt Hawkins

Stein Mart Inc. said Monday it has “assembled a team to explore all opportunities to improve operating performance and identify potential strategic alternatives” as the Jacksonville-based company struggles to rebuild sales.

The fashion retailer said there is no timetable for the process and did not give more details of the possible strategic moves.

“Given the continuing challenges of the retail environment, it is prudent for us to review our strategic options while focusing on ways to improve our business,” CEO Hunt Hawkins said in a news release Monday afternoon.

Stein Mart’s release came after the stock market closed Monday, but its stock fell during the day after The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that the company was exploring options.

Stein Mart said it retained PJ Solomon as its investment banking and financial adviser. The company also said it engaged Alvarez & Marsal to review operations.

The Wall Street Journal story said the company also hired Foley & Lardner as its legal adviser, but Stein Mart did not say anything about a legal adviser in its release.

Stein Mart has been trying to lift sales in a difficult environment for traditional retailers, and it has also put more emphasis on its e-commerce site to bring in more customers.

Total sales in the first three quarters of fiscal 2017 fell 4.2 percent to $933.8 million and comparable store sales (sales at stores open for more than one year) dropped 6.5 percent.

The company recorded a net loss of $23.9 million, or 52 cents a share, for the nine months ended Oct. 28.

Stein Mart has taken steps to cut costs, including the elimination in October of 48 jobs at its Southbank headquarters office at 1200 Riverplace Blvd.

Stein Mart still had nearly 300 workers at that office after the layoff. The company has about 11,000 employees overall, with 293 stores in 31 states.

With its weak results last year, Stein Mart’s stock had been trading mainly between $1 and $1.50 since mid-2017.

But after The Wall Street Journal story over the weekend, the stock dropped to a new low of 69 cents Monday, 39 percent below Friday’s close of $1.13.

Stein Mart closed at 72 cents Monday, down 41 cents on the day.

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