If the world is a stage, Stage Stores wants to dress the actors. The company operates about 835 department stores, mainly in rural towns in some 40 US states. (More than a quarter of the stores are in Texas.) Through its Peebles, Bealls, Stage, Palais Royal, and Goody's Family Clothing chains, the retailer offers small-town America moderately priced apparel and accessories, cosmetics, and footwear. Nationally recognized brands, such as Tommy Hilfiger, Carter's, Levi Strauss, Chaps, and Polo account for about 85% of sales and are sold alongside Stage Stores' private-label merchandise. Stage Stores is rapidly expanding its Goody's chain and launched an off-price format, Steele's, in late 2011.
The opening of three Steele's stores in Louisiana and Texas in November 2011 marked Stage Stores' entry into the small market off-price niche. Steele's is headquartered in New York City and operates as a stand-alone buying division of Stage Stores. While Stage Stores operates websites for each of its retail banners, online sales totaled just $8.6 million in fiscal 2012.
About 65% of the company's department stores are located in small towns and communities with population below 50,000 people, while 19% are located in mid-size communities (50,000 to 150,000 people), and 16% in metropolitan areas, including Houston and San Antonio, Texas.
Stage Stores has posted lackluster sales and income growth in recent years. Despite the improving economy, Stage Stores' sales in fiscal 2012 (ends January) were still below pre-receession levels. Sales totaled $1.51 billion in 2012, up nearly 3% vs. the prior year, primarily due to the addition of new stores. Same-store sales increased 0.5% over the same period. Net income declined more than 17% as a result of increased promotional activity during the year designed to move merchandise.
Stage Stores' strategic initiatives include the aggressive expansion of its Goody's Family Clothing chain (acquired out of bankruptcy in 2009) and continued growth of its newest format. The company tripled the number of Goody's stores it operates to more than 240 from just about 70 a year ago through new store openings and the rebranding of 148 of its other stores (including many Peebles locations) under the Goody's name. The company's newest growth vehicle, Steele's, is an off-price retail concept for small-town America. Steele's sells brand name family apparel, accessories, shoes, and home decor at prices 30% to 60% lower than department stores. After opening the first three Steele's stores in fiscal 2012, as many as 35 additional Steele's locations slated to open in 2013. Because Steele's targets customers with a lower household income than the company's other retail formats, Stage Stores isn't worried about Steele's stealing sales from the other chains. (The target customers at Stage's other stores are women 25 and older with annual household incomes of more than $45,000.) The retailer's other growth initiatives include growing cosmetic sales by adding more Clinique and Estee Lauder cosmetic counters to its department stores and expanding its skimpy ecommerce offering (less than 1% of sales).
Wellington Management Company owns about 14% of Stage Stores' stock.