- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. (AP) - Department store operator Stein Mart Inc. said Thursday its net loss widened in its fourth quarter due to hefty charges and slow sales at established locations.

For the quarter ended Jan. 31, the company reported a loss of $56.2 million, or $1.35 per share, compared with a loss of $12.1 million, or 30 cents per share.

Excluding asset impairment and store closing charges and other special items, the company said it had a loss of 57 cents per share.

Revenue fell 13 percent to $363.9 million from $417.4 million.

Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, dropped 12 percent.

The company blamed the economic downturn for its slow sales, saying its customers have become “extremely cautious” when buying nonessential goods.

For the year, the company posted a loss of $71.3 million, or $1.72 per share, compared with a loss of $4.5 million, or 11 cents per share in 2007.

Revenue fell 9 percent to $1.33 billion from $1.46 billion.

Stein Mart said it is highlighting value, reducing store inventories and cutting expenses to help increase sales and protect margins. During 2008, the company said it reduced its headcount at the managerial level 22 percent and cut managers’ salaries 5 percent.

The chain also cut associate hours in stores and eliminated company matches for 401(k) and deferred compensation plans.

For 2009, the company said it expects cost-savings of $40 million to $50 million and will cut capital expenditures by 50 percent.

Shares fell 5 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $1.55 in afternoon trading.

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