Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stein Mart Sees Sales Slump in March; Inclement Weather in Some Markets Hurt, but Company Says April Outlook Is Bright

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stein Mart Sees Sales Slump in March; Inclement Weather in Some Markets Hurt, but Company Says April Outlook Is Bright

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Basch, The Times-Union

Stein Mart Inc. Thursday reported lower sales for March, as many of the nation's retailers said cold weather kept shoppers indoors last month.

Jacksonville-based Stein Mart said total sales for the five weeks ended April 2 fell 0.4 percent to $153.6 million and comparable store sales in that period fell 0.9 percent. The chain of 260 retail fashion stores last month lowered its first-quarter earnings forecast after saying that bad weather in some markets hurt sales in the first two weeks of March. But sales trends are improving, so the company Thursday upgraded its sales forecast.

"Our business accelerated in the week before Easter and continued to be positive," Stein Mart President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Fisher said in a statement.

He said the company expects April comparable store sales to rise "in the mid-single digit" range and that comparable store sales for the entire first quarter ending April 30 will show an increase of 3 percent to 4 percent. The company last month predicted first-quarter comparable store sales would rise between 2 percent and 3 percent.

Nationally, retailers Thursday reported mixed sales in March because of bad weather. But analysts said consumers' willingness to spend nonetheless appeared robust.

As retailers reported sales Thursday, heavyweights Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Limited Brands had results that fell short of Wall Street forecasts. Moderately priced J.C. Penney Co. Inc. said its sales barely rose, soundly missing estimates, while discount department store operator Kohl's Corp. had an unexpected drop in business. May Department Stores Co. also widely missed forecasts.

Even some upscale retailers like Neiman Marcus Group Inc. were hurt by the weather.

But youth-oriented apparel sellers including Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and Bebe Stores Inc. were big winners, posting sharply better than expected results, while discounter Target Corp. …

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