Stein Mart on Monday said that its board of directors has appointed a special committee that, together with management, will "explore all opportunities to improve operating performance and identify potential strategic alternatives."
The company has retained P.J. Solomon as its investment banking and financial advisor and had previously engaged Alvarez & Marsal to review its operations for performance enhancements, according to a company press release.
After a tough summer, the retailer said in November that it had managed to get same-store sales to at least flatline in October, on "slightly positive traffic," according to a conference call transcript from Seeking Alpha.
Stein Mart is fighting the good fight on multiple fronts — improving its merchandise, clearing out its inventory, cutting costs and testing services like ship from store. There's some evidence that it's making progress. The retailer's store sales stabilized and digital sales actually grew by 32% in the third quarter and 47% in October, executives said in November. The retailer also announced a new loyalty scheme early last year.
But none of that has been quite enough for the much-loved retailer, which after more than a century continues to face the uphill climb of recent years. Founded in 1902 as a single store in Greenville, MS, the retailer now operates nearly 300 stores in 31 states, plus its e-commerce site.
The company hasn't released its holiday sales numbers, so it's not clear whether the retailer participated in the happy holiday season experienced by several specialty retailers, mass merchants and even department stores this year. Holiday sales increased a record 4.9%, according to the latest Mastercard SpendingPulse report released at the end of the year. That was the largest year-over-year increase since 2011 and an indication of solid consumer confidence. E-commerce sales soared 18.1% over last year thanks in part to a late-season surge, according to the report, which detailed sales from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24 across all payment types.
Stein Mart on Monday said that it has not set a timetable for the process and does not intend to disclose further developments unless the new committee decides that's appropriate.
"Given the continuing challenges of the retail environment, it is prudent for us to review our strategic options while focusing on ways to improve our business," CEO Hunt Hawkins said in a statement.