Tradition is trying to catch up with the times at Dillard's. Sandwiched between retail giant Macy's and discount chains, such as Kohl's, Dillard's is rethinking its strategy and trimming its store count. The department store chain operates about 280 locations (down from 330 in 2005) in some 30 states, covering the Sunbelt and the central US. Its stores cater to middle- and upper-middle-income women, selling name-brand and private-label merchandise with a focus on apparel and home furnishings. Women's apparel and accessories account for more than 35% sales. Founded in 1938 by William Dillard, family members, through the W. D. Company, control nearly all of the company's voting shares and run the company.
Beyond department stores, Dillard's owns CDI Contractors, a Little Rock, Arkansas-based construction firm that was started to build and remodel its stores. CDI, which accounts for only about 1% of Dillard's total sales, saw its sales decline some 11% in fiscal 2014 (ends January). New under Dillard's umbrella is Arkansas-based Acumen Brands, the operator of a dozen online retailers, including scrubschopper.com (medical uniforms) and countryoutfitter.com (western wear). Dillard's hopes to use Acumen's acumen to improve its namesake e-commerce site and the dozen operated by Acumen. Dillard's owns more than three-quarters of its stores as well as most of its distribution centers.
Dillard's exclusive brand lines include Antonio Melani, Gianni Bini, GB, Roundtree & York, and Daniel Cremieux.
Texas and Florida are the Arkansas-based department store chain's two largest markets, accounting for about a third of total stores. In 2014 the company operated 278 Dillard's stores and 18 clearing centers -- representing more than 50 million sq. ft. of space -- in 29 states.
Sales and Marketing
Dillard's markets its products in shopping malls and open-air centers. In 2014 the company spent $65 million on advertising, down from $77 million in 2013 and $99 million in 2012.
In 2014, the company launched a partnership with Time Inc.'s Southern Living franchise to produce home products (bath, bedding, tabletop, candles, ceramic accessories) available exclusively at Dillard's stores. Later that year, Dillard's entered a new agreement with James Avery to provide that company's jewelry at more than 40 store locations.
After posting three years of growth, Dillard's saw a marginal revenue dip of 1% to $6.7 billion in fiscal 2014 (versus $6.8 billion in 2013). The decline was primarily due to a decline in the company's construction segment as well as declines in sales of ladies' apparel and home and furniture. However, ladies' accessories and lingerie, shoes, and juniors' and children's apparel sales posted increased sales in 2014.
Net income fell 3.7% to $323.7 million in fiscal 2014 as a result of the lower sales and other charges such as an increase in asset impairment and store closings. Cash flow from operations also fell 4% to $501.8 million as merchandise inventories increased. A decrease in trade accounts payable and accrued liabilities also impacted cash inflow.
Along with the decline in sales, the company's store count has slipped as it shutters underperforming locations, including the last of its 16 home and furniture stores. Indeed, the schedule of store closings has accelerated in recent years as Dillard's tries to reduce operating expenses in a recessionary environment. To reverse falling sales, the department store chain has moved "up market", positioning itself above Macy's and Belk and below high-end chains such as Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's. To attract more customers Dillard's is focusing on adding more fashion, much like J. C. Penney has done in recent years. The firm's new direction is inspired on the success of specialty stores with their edited displays or merchandise in boutique-like settings rather than an endless sea of apparel racks. New stores are smaller (averaging 170,000 sq. ft.) and located in open-air lifestyle centers rather than enclosed malls. Dillard's, which is averse to marking down merchandise but has been forced to discount by its lower-end competitors, hopes its move up market will stop the markdowns.
In 2014 the company opened two new locations (in Las Vegas and Sarasota, Florida). It also was named as an anchor in a new development underway in Conway, Arkansas.