Stein Mart, Inc. announced total sales for the five-week March period were $131.1 million, a 10.5 percent decrease from the $146.6 million in sales for the same period in 2002. Comparable store sales for March decreased 12.9 percent from 2002 to 2003 due in part to the shift of this year’s Easter holiday out of late March and into late April.

Merchandise categories with the better comparable store sales performance during March were Intimate Apparel and Ladies Accessories. Geographically, sales trends were strongest in South Florida and the Ohio River Valley.

Total sales for the first nine weeks of the fiscal year were $222.1 million, a 9.0 percent decrease from the same period in 2002. Comparable store sales decreased 11.7 percent from the same nine-week period of 2002.

“March results suffered due to a combination of general economic weakness, the war in Iraq and a later Easter selling season,” noted Michael D. Fisher, president and chief executive officer of Stein Mart. “While April should improve with the approach of Easter, the general environment remains extremely challenging and our expectation now is for flat comparable store sales this month.”

With flat comparable store sales in April, management expects that the resulting eight percent decrease in comparable store sales for the quarter would lead to earnings per share of approximately $0.07 to $0.09 for the first quarter of 2003.