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“Jeggings” and the Economy

Washington and Lee alumnus David Stovall Jr. of the Class of 1969 was always headed for the retail sales business. That’s one of the takeaways from a wide-ranging Q and A with David, the president and CEO of Jacksonville-based Stein Mart, that appeared in the Financial News & Daily Record (Jacksonville, Fla.) earlier this month.

As he mentions in the piece, David has been in retail for all but one summer. He recalls how his father, assistant manager of the Leggett store in downtown Staunton, Va., would swing by the store when he drove David to kindergarten: “I would go into the store with him in the morning. And the trash cans were on wheels and he would make sure all the trash cans were pulled up to the aisle and I would push them to the front door. As a kindergartner. He was an ex-Marine dive bomber pilot and (there was) not much variance, not much room from that center line.”

David joined Stein Mart in December 2008 after spending 22 years with Belk Inc. He also had retail experience with Woodward & Lothrop, Bloomingdale’s and Stewart’s in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area. Stein Mart, which operates 265 stores from California to Massachusetts, offers the fashion merchandise, service and presentation of a better department or specialty store, at prices competitive with off-price retail chains.

Financial News notes that David guided Stein Mart from a loss of more than $70 million in 2008 to a profit of almost $24 million in 2009. But beyond the numbers, the story provides fascinating background on how David and his team decide what shoppers are going to want to buy from store to store and region to region. And you can also find out what “jeggings” are.