Retailer Stein Mart files for bankruptcy, might close all 281 stores

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Stein Mart Inc. filed for bankruptcy and might close all of its stores after the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the off-price retailer’s decline.

The company has launched a liquidation process and expects to close “a significant portion, if not all, of its brick-and-mortar stores,” according to a statement Wednesday. Stein Mart said it is evaluating all options and may sell its e-commerce operations and related intellectual property.

Stein Mart is a discount retailer that runs 281 stores in 30 states. It employed about 9,000 people as of Feb. 1, but closed its stores in March and furloughed “a significant number” of those employees as the pandemic gripped the world, according to company filings. By June 15, all of its stores were reopened.

The chain has seven stores in Indiana, including four in the Indianapolis area: 1488 W. 86th St. in Indianapolis; 2520 E. 146th St. in Carmel; 1011 N. State Road 135 in Greenwood; and Hamilton Town Center in Noblesville. Others stores in Indiana are in Fort Wayne, Terre Haute and Evansville.

The department-store chain becomes the latest old-line retailer to succumb to a tumultuous shopping environment, as the pandemic has prompted lengthy economic shutdowns and upended consumer behavior. More than two dozen major retailers have filed Chapter 11 this year, including Men’s Wearhouse owner Tailored Brands Inc. and department store chain Lord & Taylor in just the last few weeks.

Stein Mart shares fell as much as 42% in New York on Wednesday. The stock was down 56% this year through Tuesday.

The Chapter 11 filing in Florida gives Jacksonville-based Stein Mart some breathing space while it works out a plan to repay creditors. The company has asked for court approval to continue paying its employees and vendors, according to the statement.

The company’s bankruptcy counsel is Foley & Lardner, its restructuring adviser is Clear Thinking Group LLC and its investment banker is PJ Solomon.

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