|Traded as||OTCQB: BLKIA
|Founded||1888 (Monroe, North Carolina, USA)|
Number of locations
|299 (February 2014)|
|Products||Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares.|
|Revenue||$4.0 billion (FY 2014) |
Number of employees
|24,700 (2014 Annual Report)|
Belk, Inc. is a mid-range to upscale department store chain founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk in Monroe, North Carolina. It is the nation's largest family owned and operated department store company, with 299 locations in 16 states. The company is in the third generation of Belk family leadership. Belk stores and Belk.com offer national brands and private label fashion apparel, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, a wedding registry and home furnishings. Belk competes with departments stores JCPenney, Kohl's and Sears. Its flagship locations are larger and sell higher end, more specialty brands of merchandise and compete with higher end retailers, such as Dillard's, Macy's and Von Maur.
Belk was founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk in Monroe, North Carolina, outside Charlotte. The store was first called "New York Racket" and then "Belk Brothers," after Belk made his brother, physician Dr. John Belk, his partner. Belk bought in volume to pass savings on and sold at fixed prices, then a relatively unusual practice.
By 1909, the company had moved its headquarters to Charlotte and built a huge flagship store on Trade and Tryon Streets in downtown Charlotte. The business grew steadily, relying on "bargain sales" and advertising to grow the business and increase its influence throughout the South.
Beginning in 1921 with the Leggett Bros. stores of South Boston, Virginia, the Belk company grew by investing in various partnerships with local merchandisers in nearby markets. (This complex story is more extensively chronicled in a book about the evolution of the company.)
This structure allowed Belk to expand quickly and permitted local variation, but resulted in a diluted brand identity since most stores were co-branded. By the 1990s, the system had become increasingly untenable: stores were held by over 350 separate legal entities, Belk family members disagreed about whether to maintain or sweep away the structure, and some local partners threatened stability by selling their stakes. For example, the heirs of John G. Parks, majority owners of the Parks-Belk chain, sold their interests to Proffitt's, a competitor. The Belks quickly sold their stake as well, although Belk would later purchase the stores back as part of its later acquisition of the entire Proffitt's chain. When Proffitt's made an offer for the Leggett family's stake, which included 42 stores comprising about 20 percent of Belk's revenue, John and Tom Belk were forced to respond by forming a new company in 1996 that bought the Leggetts out. This move accelerated the slow trend of consolidating the store's ownership under the Belks.
In 1998, the company formed a new entity (Belk, Inc.) that merged the 112 remaining Belk companies, swapping the existing partners' local interests for shares in the combined entity; for example, the Hudson family in Raleigh received almost 5% of the shares. Slowly, Belk eliminated the dual brands, completing the process with a chain-wide Belk rebranding in the fall of 2010.
On July 5, 2005, Belk completed the purchase of 47 Proffitt's and McRae's department stores from Saks Incorporated, primarily in Tennessee and Mississippi. Belk converted the 39 Proffitt's and McRae's stores to the Belk nameplate on March 8, 2006. Just over a year later, Belk purchased 38 Parisian department stores from Saks on October 2, 2006. Although most Parisian stores were converted to the Belk nameplate since September 12, 2007, some duplicate Parisian stores were closed, as at The Mall at Barnes Crossing in Tupelo, Mississippi, Richland Mall (then known as Midtown at Forest Acres), Columbiana Centre in Columbia, South Carolina, and Citadel Mall in Charleston, South Carolina. Four Parisian stores in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, plus a store under construction at the time in Michigan, were sold by Belk to The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. Integrating the larger, more upscale Parisian stores proved a challenge for Belk, and spurred the creation of the company's flagship strategy.
During the fourth quarter of 2005, Belk completed the sale of their private-label credit card division, Belk National Bank, to GE MoneyBank. Consumers were issued new Belk credit cards replacing the old ones issued by BNB. All new Belk cards are now issued by GE Money Bank.
On October 3, 2010, the News & Observer reported that Belk planned to update its logo. On October 12 at SouthPark Mall, Belk officially introduced the new logo, its first since 1967. The chain embarked on a $70 million marketing campaign that replaced the old slogan "All for You!" with a new slogan, "Modern. Southern. Style." Sixty stores got new signs in the first phase, with the remainder getting new signs throughout 2011. Advertisements for Belk & Co. jewelry continue to use a variation of the old logo.
On April 3, 2015, news reports revealed that Belk was exploring "strategic alternatives," including a possible sale of the company.
Today, the chain operates 299 stores in 16 states, generating US$4 billion in sales in 2014. Its typical store covers 60,000 to 100,000 square feet, and is located in a mid- or small-sized city. 50% of its stores are in regional malls, another 40% in open-air community or power shopping centers, and 10% in open-air lifestyle centers. Its typical store is considerably smaller than most mall-based department stores (e.g., 60% smaller than the average Macy's department store), which allows Belk to operate in smaller markets.
Belk stores are particularly concentrated in the Carolinas, although the Parisian purchase gave it a strong presence in Atlanta (its largest single market) and Birmingham. The westernmost Belk store is located in Kerrville, Texas, the northernmost Belk is located in Westminster, Maryland, the southernmost Belk store is in Fort Myers, Florida, and the northwest-most is in Branson, Missouri. Within this large footprint, Belk does not operate any stores within several major metropolitan areas, like Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, and Washington, DC.
It is still family-operated. Although its Class A and Class B common stock shares are publicly traded on the OTCBB market, a 2011 SEC proxy filing shows over 90 percent of the Class A stock held by Belk family interests).
Even as Belk has made its recent acquisitions, the chain has operated limited electronic commerce on its website, and those websites acquired and redirected to Belk.com. Home furnishings such as bedding, small kitchen appliances, crystal, dinnerware, and china have been offered for several years to online shoppers, as a part of the chain's online bridal and gift registry. The chain revamped their website and registry on September 15, 2008. Celebrity-branded product lines are another pursuit, including a partnership with actress Kristin Davis for a ladies' apparel and accessories collection which debuted in fall 2008 in 125 store locations and online. However, that product line was discontinued in late 2009.
In December 2010 Belk announced that beginning in 2011 it would become the title sponsor for the former Meineke Car Care Bowl (played in Charlotte), now renamed the Belk Bowl. The sponsorship would continue for three years. The first Belk Bowl drew 58,427 fans in 2011, and the 2013 game drew 48,128. On July 18, 2013, Belk announced the six-year extension of the Belk Bowl's partnership with the Atlantic Coast Conference beginning in 2014.
The chain has multiple "flagship" locations—larger locations in metropolitan regional malls, with a more upscale assortment than most and a wider array of merchandise and services including in-store salons. They compete with other upscale department stores, such as Macy's, Dillard's and Nordstrom. As of 2014, the chain claimed 18 flagship locations, and plans to upgrade more locations.
- SouthPark Mall, in Charlotte, North Carolina, houses the chain's largest store, with more than 336,414 square feet (31,253.9 m2). The store was built in 1970 as one of the mall's original anchor stores. The mall was co-developed by the Belk and Ivey families.
- Phipps Plaza, in Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia contains a flagship for that region. It opened as a Parisian during a 1992 expansion of the mall to three anchor department stores. Like the store at The Summit, it converted to a Belk by September 2007, although its conversion to flagship wasn't officially announced until November 2, 2007. The company said it would help them compete against stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom which have locations at Phipps. Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's have locations across the street at Lenox Square. This will help them in the Buckhead market.
- Riverchase Galleria, in Birmingham, Alabama houses a flagship store, made official after a recent renovation brings it up to par with the mall's rival lifestyle center, The Summit.
- The Summit, in Birmingham, Alabama, houses a flagship store built in 1997 as a Parisian store and one of the lifestyle center's original anchors. Its intended conversion to a Belk flagship was officially announced on April 25, 2007, with the reorganization complete by September 2007. It previously was Parisian's flagship store.
- Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Hudson Belk built an elaborate 236,000-square-foot (21,900 m2) store in 1972 (subsequently expanded to 305,000 square feet (28,300 m2) in 2007, with separate locations for menswear and in-mall cosmetics counters) in North Carolina's high-tech Research Triangle.
- Galleria Dallas, in Dallas, Texas, opened in April 2014, replacing the former flagship location of Saks Fifth Avenue. It is the first regional mall in Texas to house a Belk, in contrast to other Belk locations in Texas that are in outdoor shopping centers. 116,000-square-foot (10,800 m2)
- Bridge Street Town Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, opened in September 2014 with 170,000 sq ft, replacing a store in nearby Madison Square Mall
- Columbiana Centre in Columbia, South Carolina is where Belk is expanding to a 250,000-square-foot (23,000 m2) store by 2015 in Columbia's upscale Lake Murray / Irmo retail district. Belk is opening a dedicated Men's Store in half of the former Sears anchor pad.
- Streets at Southpoint in Durham, North Carolina opened in 2002 with a 180,000-square-foot (17,000 m2) store, which "included many of the features that dazzled shoppers at Belk's largest store, the flagship location at SouthPark."
- Friendly Center in Greensboro, North Carolina became a flagship store in 2014 with the addition of a home department.
- Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which opened in 1975 with a 241,607-square-foot (22,446.0 m2) store.
- Womick, Chip (December 2010). "Main Street Merchant". Our State. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
- Womick, Chip. "Main Street Merchant".
- Belk, Inc.-- The Company and the Family That Built It
- Bull, Becky (7 October 1996). "Belk making small moves to fight foes". Charlotte Business Journal. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
- Mildenberg, David (12 January 1998). "Hudson role appears vital to Belk future". Triangle Business Journal. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
- [dead link]
- Davis, Lisa. "What's in store for Belk" (November 2008).
- Belk official website
- "NC-based Belk department stores get new logo". The Charlotte Observer. 2010-10-03. Retrieved 2010-10-15.[dead link]
- Valle, Kirsten (2010-10-12). "Belk unveils its new logo at SouthPark". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
- Peralta, Katherine (2 April 2015). "Belk exploring possibility of selling company". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
- Belk, Inc. "Form 10-K Annual Report, Fiscal Year 2014". US Securities and Exchange Commission. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
- Macy's Inc. 2014 Store Count and Square Footage http://macysinc.com/for-investors/store-information/store-count/2014/default.aspx. Missing or empty
- "Store Details". Belk.com. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
- http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1051771/000095012311036402/g26747def14a.htm SEC 2011 Def 14A proxy filing, p. 14
- [dead link]
- Thomas, Jennifer (9 April 2014). Charlotte Business Journal http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2014/04/09/belk-opens-flagship-store-in-dallas-photos.html. Retrieved 29 March 2015. Missing or empty
- Belk Salons and Spas http://www.belk.com/AST/Misc/Belk_Stores/Customer_Service/SalonsandSpas.jsp. Retrieved 4 April 2015. Missing or empty
- Belk, Inc.-- The Company and the Family That Built It, Page 6
- WFMY (9 July 2014). "Opening Dates Announced For Belk Store At Friendly Center". Retrieved 29 March 2015.
- "Belk to Invest $16 Million for Major Improvements to Greensboro and High Point, NC Stores".