Stein Mart's Total sales for the five-week September period were $124.4 million, a 3.1 percent decrease from the $128.4 million in sales for the same period in 2002. Comparable store sales for September decreased 3.3 percent from 2002 to 2003.
Merchandise categories with positive comparable store sales performances during September were Ladies' Career, Men's Sportswear and Intimate Apparel. Geographically, sales trends were better in Southern California, South Florida and parts of the mid-South and the Midwest.
Total sales for the 35-week period (year-to-date) were $851.5 million, a 4.7 percent decrease from the $893.9 million in sales for the same period in 2002. Comparable store sales decreased 6.9 percent from the same 35-week period of 2002.
In September, the Company opened one store and closed eight under- performing stores as part of a 16-store closing program announced earlier this year. Twelve of the 16 stores are now closed; the remaining four stores will close in the fourth quarter of 2003.
“While comparable store sales continue to be disadvantaged by the elimination of unrestricted coupons, that impact appears to be moderating and our September sales decline was less severe than anticipated,” commented Michael D. Fisher, president and chief executive officer of Stein Mart, Inc.
The Company announced at the end of the second quarter that it would discontinue unrestricted, percentage-off coupons in favor of more limited “percentage off sale or clearance only” shopping passes. The Company has also initiated a pilot broadcast advertising campaign, and plans a nationwide rollout of the campaign in mid-October.
Management now believes that same store sales will decrease in the mid- single digit range for the third quarter of 2003, an improvement over earlier guidance of a 10-12 percent decline. However, the Company still expects a substantial operating loss for the quarter, due to the added pressure of eliminating coupons in a period that has historically been the least productive of the Company's fiscal year. For comparison purposes, in the third quarter of 2002, Stein Mart incurred an operating loss of $(0.09) per share with a 2.2 percent increase in same store sales. Furthermore, the Company will incur significant store closing expenses in the third quarter of 2003 in connection with the September closure of eight under-performing stores.