If the world is a stage, Stage Stores wants to dress the actors. The company operates about 885 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 sold its off-price 35-store Steele's chain (launched in 2011) in 2014.
Houston-based Stage Stores operates on a nationwide stage, with stores in 40 states. However, Texas is by far its largest market, home to 249 stores. About two-thirds of the company's department stores are located in small towns and communities with population below 50,000 people, while 20% are located in mid-size communities (50,000 to 150,000 people), and 14% in metropolitan areas, such as Houston and San Antonio.
Sales and Marketing
The target customers at Stage's department stores are women 35 and older with annual household incomes of more than $55,000. The company distributes its apparel and other merchandise through three distribution centers located in Jacksonville, Texas; South Hill, Virginia; and Jeffersonville, Ohio. It also sells directly to consumers via its e-commerce sites. Stage Stores reported advertising expenses of $94.2 million in fiscal 2014 (ended January), up from $74.7 million and $64.7 million in fiscal 2013 and 2012, respectively.
Stage Stores' sales declined by 1% in fiscal 2014 (ended January) versus the prior year, to $1.63 billion. Net income fell 56% over the same period, to $16.6 million. The modest decline reversed three consecutive years of sales growth for the department store operator. The company blamed unseasonable and severe weather, an intense promotional environment (which squeezed profits), and weakness in the overall apparel market for the sales drop. Same-store and online sales each fell by about a percent. Lower sales coupled with higher expenses contributed to the double-digit decline in net income.
Cash flow from operations declined by nearly $30 million in fiscal 2014 on lower net income, increased merchandise inventories, and a decrease in accounts payable and other liabilities.
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 has nearly quadrupled the number of Goody's stores it operates to about 270 from just about 70 a few years ago through new store openings and the rebranding of 148 of its other stores (including many Peebles locations) under the Goody's name. The retailer's other growth initiatives include growing cosmetic sales by adding more Clinique and Estée Lauder cosmetic counters to its department stores and expanding its skimpy e-commerce offering.
In March 2014, the company sold its off-price 35-store Steele's chain to Hilco Global to better focus on its core department store business. Launched in 2011, Steele's sold brand name family apparel and accessories, shoes, and home decor in small towns in seven states.