Stein Mart to 'explore strategic alternatives' as its sales wane

Key Points
  • Stein Mart has formed a special committee to aid in the review process.
  • The off-price retailer will "explore all opportunities" to improve sales.
  • As TJX, Ross Stores and Burlington have flourished, Stein Mart has struggled to keep its inventory in check and keep prices competitive.
A Stein Mart store in Allentown, Pa.
Shuvaev | Wikipedia Commons

Off-price retailer Stein Mart on Monday said it was beginning to "explore all opportunities" to improve sales and would "identify potential strategic alternatives" to its current business model.

"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," Chief Executive Officer Hunt Hawkins said in prepared remarks.

Stein Mart said it had formed a special committee, appointed by the company's board, to aid in the review process. The company added there was no set timeline regarding when other details might be announced.

Shares of Stein Mart closed Monday down more than 36 percent on the news. The stock was trading close to 90 cents a share in premarket trading Tuesday, having tumbled more than 80 percent from a year ago.

On its latest earnings conference call in November, management said Stein Mart was working to trim back excess apparel inventory and keep a tighter control on expenses. Cost reductions are expected to result in annual savings of $10 million in 2018, the company explained.

Its same-store sales fell nearly 7 percent in the third quarter of 2017, compared with a 4.6 decline in the same period a year prior.

The Jacksonville, Florida-headquartered retailer operates roughly 290 stores in the U.S. today, with a high concentration of locations in the Southeast and Texas.

As other off-price retailers, including TJX, Ross Stores and Burlington, have flourished, Stein Mart struggled to bring in national brands and has notably been less cost-competitive than some of its peers.

Stein Mart has called 2017 "a year of transition." Hawkins was appointed as CEO, having served as the interim leader following the departure of Jay Stein, and MaryAnne Morin was named president and chief marketing officer.

Meanwhile, the company has been changing the look of its stores. It's been testing a smaller home decor area in about 100 locations, ditching jewelry cases in some stores and grouping apparel brands by "lifestyle" instead of sporadically throughout the floor.