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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

JACKSONVILLE, FL-Locally based Stein Mart Inc. says it plans to cut at least 200 jobs in an effort to scale down expenses, particularly after posting weaker sales in December and for its fiscal year to date. The discount department store chain posted 9% lower sales during the five-week holiday shopping period compared with a year earlier, saying Florida and the Southeast showed continued weakness.

Stein Mart will eliminate 178 store positions by reducing the number of assistant managers at each store from two to one, while also cutting 31 field and corporate jobs, including 12 at its Jacksonville headquarters. All remaining management will see their salaries reduced by 5%, with corporate matching for 401(k) and deferred compensation plans also being suspended.

No store closings are expected to result from the move, though Stein Mart does report that it has two fewer stores as of this month than it had a year ago, with 278 nationwide. Stein Mart’s sales over the past year are down nearly 9% over the past year to just under $1.3 billion, including $178 million in December, with more favorable results coming from stores west of the Mississippi River.

“These decisions, while difficult, underscore our philosophy to be fiscally conservative in a volatile economic climate,” David Stovall, Stein Mart president and CEO, stated in a release. The company expects to realize $25 million in savings this year as a result.

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