Discount retailer Stein Mart files for bankruptcy, plans to close most stores

It operates 281 stores in 30 states

A Stein Mart location (Getty, iStock)
A Stein Mart location (Getty, iStock)

Off-price retailer Stein Mart is the latest brick-and-mortar chain to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The Jacksonville, Florida-based chain plans to close “a significant portion, if not all” of the 281 stores it operates across 30 states, according to a press release. The publicly traded company, founded in the early 1900s, will continue to operate its business in the near term, but it has launched a store closing and liquidation process. Stein Mart sells apparel, home decor, accessories and shoes.

In April, Stein Mart and private equity firm Kingswood Capital Management canceled a deal to go private, due to Covid-19. Stein Mart’s stock traded at 19 cents a share at 2 p.m. Wednesday, down nearly 40 percent from its opening price on Tuesday.

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Stein Mart said it may sell its online commerce business and intellectual property. In a statement, CEO Hunt Hawkins blamed Covid-19 for the company’s woes. But Stein Mart had faced problems before the outbreak.

The pandemic has decimated retail and restaurants, with recent bankruptcy filings from Lord & Taylor, the owner of Men’s Wearhouse, the owner of Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant plus The Wainscott Il Mulino outpost and six other restaurants under the brand.

As such bankruptcies skyrocket in recent months, a key benefit is the ability to exit pricey, multi-year leases.