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Stein Mart Dec sales below forecast

Jan '06
Fashion merchandiser Stein Mart Inc announced total sales and comparable store sales for the fiscal period(s) ended December 31, 2005.

The best performing categories were ladies' career sportswear and men's sport clothing and furnishings. Geographically, the best results were in south Florida, east Texas and Arizona.

"December sales were below expectations. Men's and ladies' apparel sales were basically flat to last year, when achieved a 10.3 percent comparable store sales increase; apparel inventory is at an appropriate level to efficiently clear the remaining fall and holiday merchandise and to receive early spring assortments," commented Michael D. Fisher, President and Chief Executive Officer.

"However, December's results were most dramatically impacted by a double digit sales decrease in the home division due to significant reductions in the overall home and holiday decor inventories."

As previously noted, the home business (which includes linens and gifts) has lagged the Company's performance this year, and a new merchandise strategy is being deployed. Liquidation of phased-out merchandise has been underway this fall and, as a result, home division inventories decreased double-digits from last year's December levels.

Delivery of merchandise and installation of fixtures reflecting the new home division strategy will be complete in the first quarter of 2006.

Management now anticipates comparable store sales for the fourth quarter to be down 5 - 6 percent to last year, which would produce earnings of $0.36 - $0.39 per share, as compared to last year's earnings of $0.54 per share with an 8.0 percent increase in comparable store sales.

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