Belk Exec Will Lead Stein Mart; New CEO Taking over Friday at Jacksonville-Based Fashion Retailer

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Byline: MARK BASCH

Stein Mart Inc. Tuesday named a longtime Belk Inc. executive as its new president and chief executive officer.

David Stovall will take over as CEO on Friday, succeeding Linda Farthing, who announced she was leaving in October. Stovall, 61, has been with Belk since 1986, most recently as chairman of Belk's central store division in Charlotte, N.C.

Stovall joins Stein Mart during a difficult year for the Jacksonville-based fashion retailer. With the weak economy making it difficult to attract shoppers, Stein Mart reported a net loss of $15.1 million for the first nine months of this fiscal year, with comparable store sales dropping by 10.5 percent since last year. Its stock, which peaked at $24.10 in 2005, fell to a record low of $1.03 last month after its quarterly report.

During the company's quarterly conference call with analysts, Farthing said, "We are in for a protracted recovery given the current macro environment."

Chairman Jay Stein said in a news release that Stovall "has a solid history of executive management over both store operations and merchandise. …