May 18, 2024

Stein Mart was on the ropes, and the pandemic finished it off

Mike Vogel | 11/25/2020

From the seed of a store his grandfather opened in 1908 in Mississippi, Jay Stein built Stein Mart — headquartered in Jacksonville — into a company that until this year numbered 281 stores, $1.2 billion in annual revenue and 9,000 employees.

It gave Stein stories to tell — indeed, he’s “a storyteller,” USA Today said in a 2013 profile — like working the register at age 10, or how Memphis went wild when he opened the family’s first store outside Mississippi. He sprinkled the stories with bon mots: “Stein Mart does best where the sun shines,” he said of the regional chain.

The story won’t have a happy ending, however. In August, Stein Mart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection and will close all of its stores. Nationally, the first half of 2020 saw record store closings; the annual bankruptcy and liquidation rate for retailers is likely to set a record. Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney, Pier 1 Imports, Tuesday Morning and the parents of Ann Taylor, Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank all went to bankruptcy court.

This story also features expert opinions, business briefs and people in the news: Neil Saunders; Gwen Manto


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