Belk is busy bulking up. Already the nation's largest privately owned department store chain, Belk operates about 300 stores in some 15 states, following its purchase of the Parisian chain from Saks. Previously, Belk acquired Saks' McRae's and Proffitt's divisions. Belk stores are located primarily in the southeastern US and offer mid-priced brand-name and private-label apparel, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, gifts, and home furnishings. Its stores usually anchor malls or shopping centers in small to midsized markets and target 35-to-54-year-old middle- and upper-income women. Founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk, the Belk family still owns and runs the company.
Belk's department stores are located in 16 states. Its largest markets are North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina, which together account for about half of all Belk stores.
Belk's store operations are organized into three regional operating divisions, with offices in Raleigh, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama. Subsidiary Belk Store Services provides a wide range of services, including administration and merchandising planning and allocation, to the three division offices. In addition to its retail stores, the department store chain operates a growing e-commerce business belk.com (relaunched in 2008).
Belk's revenues increased 7% in fiscal 2013 (ended January) versus the previous year to $4 billion, a sales record for the retail chain. Same-store sales increased by about 6% driven by recent investments in merchandising and marketing, and the company's e-commerce initiatives. Indeed, online sales increased 84% in fiscal 2013 compared with 2012. Net income was $188.4 million compared with $183.1 million in 2012. Fiscal 2013 marked the third consecutive year of increasing sales and profits for Belk, which appears to have left the dark days of the Great Recession -- during which it lost sales to discount chains -- behind it.
Declining consumer spending during the financial crisis brought a decade of expansion -- driven primarily by acquisitions from Saks -- at Belk to a halt. Rather than increase its store count, Belk has focused on remodeling and expanding existing stores, developing new merchandising concepts, and enhancing its online business. As a result, it's become a more efficient retailer, with store sales per square foot increasing from $143 in fiscal 2010 to $174 in fiscal 2013. In fiscal 2013 the company closed two stores, yet increased its overall sales. Belk's updated image campaign (launched in 2010) under the tagline: Modern. Southern. Style is meeting with some success. Like its competitors Macy's and J.C. Penney, Belk has focused on exclusive private-label merchandise to attract and retain customers. The retailer also launched its own fine jewelry business under the "Belk and Co. Fine Jewelers" name and operates jewelry departments under that brand in about half of its stores. Also like Macy's, Belk has undertaken a strategic initiative to improve its merchandising and planning organization to make it more responsive to local markets.
The Belk family owns about 15% of the company's common stock.