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 270 locations (down from 330 in 2005) in some 30 US 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 nearly 40% of its sales. Founded in 1938 by William Dillard, family members, through the W. D. Company, control the company.
Dillard's exclusive brand lines include Antonio Melani, Gianni Bini, GB, Roundtree & York, and Daniel Cremieux. By product line, the company generated 22% of its sales from ladies' apparel in fiscal 2015 (ended January), and another 16% from ladies' accessories and lingerie. Another 17% of sales came from men's apparel and accessories, while the rest of sales came from shoes (16%), cosmetics (14%), juniors' and children's apparel (9%), and home and furniture products (4%).
Beyond department stores, Dillard's owns CDI Contractors, a Little Rock, Arkansas-based construction firm that was started to build and remodel its stores. It also owns Acumen Brands, the operator of a dozen online retailers, including scrubschopper.com (medical uniforms) and countryoutfitter.com (western wear), which assists in its e-commerce operations.
Texas and Florida are the Arkansas-based department store chain's two largest markets, accounting for about a third of total stores. In 2015, the company operated 272 Dillard's stores and 25 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. The retailer spent $56 million on advertising in FY2015, down from $65 million in FY2014 and $77 million in FY2013.
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.
Dillard's sales and profits have remained mostly flat over the past few years as its rising comparable store sales have been offset by its shrinking net store count.
The retailer's sales inched up 1% to $6.78 billion in fiscal 2015 (ended January) thanks to a 1% increase in comparable store sales, with sales increases for all of its product lines except for cosmetics, which remained flat, and home and furniture, which declined significantly. Sales transactions decreased 2% while average dollars per transaction increased 3%.
Higher sales in FY2015 drove Dillard's net income up 3% to $331.85 million. The retailer's operating cash levels climbed 22% to $611.6 million for the year thanks to favorable working capital changes, mostly related to increases in trade accounts payable and accrued expenses.
To try and 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 has been 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.
Dillards also continues to shrink its net store count as it shutters underperforming locations in attempt to cut operating expenses and generate property gains. During 2014, for example, it closed its Southgate Mall location in Sarasota, Florida for a gain of $6.3 million, and sold a store in Longmont, Colorado for $14.5 million in proceeds.