The Stein Mart in Lady Lake is among the 279 stores that will be closed after the company filed for bankruptcy protection amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Jacksonville-based chain initially announced Wednesday that it would close “a significant portion, if not all” of its stores. But on Thursday a group of liquidators – Gordon Brothers, Hilco Merchant Resources, Tiger Capital Group, B. Riley Financial’s Great American Group and SB360 Capital Partners – announced that all of the 112-year-old chain’s stores would shut down, with going-out-of-business sales starting Friday or Saturday.
The closings will affect about 8,000 employees in 30 states. The chain is known for offering brand names for men and women, home décor, gifts and shoes for up to 60 percent off department store prices.
“New merchandise arriving in stores, as well as customers’ favorite familiar brands, are deeply discounted and will sell out quickly at these low prices,” a spokesperson for the joint venture of liquidators announced Thursday. “We are encouraging shoppers to take advantage of Stein Mart’s abundant assortment of merchandise at substantial price reductions before it’s too late.”
Stein Mart gift cards and loyalty rewards will be accepted for a limited time. Store fixtures, furniture and equipment also will be sold at discounted prices as part of the going-out-of-business sale.
Stein Mart initially shut down all of its stores in March as the COVID-19 pandemic first swept across the country. Stores started reopening in late April and early June, but most of them operated with reduced hours and the company announced that it wasn’t likely to survive the devastating financial hit it took because of the COVID-19 crisis.
“The combined effects of a challenging retail environment coupled with the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have caused significant financial distress on our business,” said Hunt Hawkins, Stein Mart’s chief executive officer. “The company has determined that the best strategy to maximize value will be a liquidation of its assets pursuant to an organized going-out-of-business sale. The company lacks sufficient liquidity to continue operating in the ordinary course of business. I would like to thank all of our employees for their dedication and support.”
The local Stein Mart store, located in the Lady Lake Crossing shopping plaza, opened for business in October 2015. The first 200 customers in line received gift cards ranging in value from $5 to $50, with one lucky person receiving a $200 gift card.
On the morning of Oct. 22, 2015, Villager Sue Schroeder anxiously awaited the opening of the new 32,000-square-foot store. Prior to the location being built in Lady Lake, she had to travel to Gainesville or Altamonte Springs to shop at Stein Mart.
Schroeder had enjoyed shopping at the chain when she lived in Atlanta and she had written to the regional manager asking for a Stein Mart in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown. The regional manager wrote back, saying she would think about it.
News of Stein Mart coming to Lady Lake first broke in December 2014 when a site plan was presented at a special meeting of the Lady Lake Commission. It was announced that the store would be included in a 52,000-square-foot building that would be part of the same shopping plaza on U.S. Hwy. 27/441 – behind McDonald’s and Tire Kingdom – that also housed Kohl’s and Dollar Tree.
Conceptual landscaping plans for the site were approved by the Lady Lake Parks, Recreation and Tree Advisory Committee in February 2015 and work got under way at the site the following month when crews starting moving dirt in anticipation of construction starting in the near future.
Stein Mart isn’t the first business with connections to Lady Lake to close its doors. In February, Earth Fare announced that it was shutting down all of its stores, which included one under construction in Lady Lake across U.S. Hwy. 27/441 from Stein Mart. At the time, Lady Lake Mayor Jim Richards announced that the mammoth building that was under construction would be the perfect place for a Trader Joe’s.
In early May, Sweet Tomatoes announced that it was shutting down all of its locations, including the Lady Lake eatery just a stone’s throw from Stein Mart. The company’s CEO said it wasn’t feasible to operate the chain, which was based on the self-serve concept of an extensive salad buffet, soup, potato, drink and deserts bars, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also in May, Texas-based Pier 1 Imports announced that it would close all of its 540 stores across the country, which included a location in the Rolling Acres Plaza in The Villages. That store had proven to a favorite among area residents who for years had shopped at the chain known for imported wicker chairs, scented candles, exotic furniture and other items.