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Belk, Inc.
Industry Retail
Predecessor Belk Brothers
Founded 1888 (Monroe, North Carolina, USA)
Founder William Henry Belk
Headquarters Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Number of locations
299 (February 2014)[1]
Products Clothing, footwear, bedding, furniture, jewelry, beauty products, and housewares.
Revenue $4.0 billion (FY 2014) [4]
Owner Sycamore Partners
Number of employees
24,700 (2014 Annual Report)

Belk, Inc. (stylized as belk) is an American mid-range to upscale department store chain founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk in Monroe, North Carolina. It is a large 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 offer national brands and private label fashion apparel, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, a wedding registry and home furnishings. Belk competes with department 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.


The first Belk, established as New York Racket, in 1902.

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.[2]

By 1909, the company had moved its headquarters to Charlotte and built a huge flagship store on Trade and Tryon Streets in downtown Charlotte, which would remain the company's headquarters until it was closed in 1988 to make way for the construction of what is now Bank of America Corporate Center. 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.[3] (This complex story is more extensively chronicled in a book[4] 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.[5]

Belk Bros. store in Charlotte, North Carolina around 1910.

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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

On October 3, 2010, the News & Observer reported that Belk planned to update its logo.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

On August 24, 2015, Belk announced that it had entered into a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by New York-based private equity firm Sycamore Partners.[13] The acquisition was completed on December 10, 2015.[14]

Company today

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.[15] Its typical store is considerably smaller than most mall-based department stores (e.g., 60% smaller than the average Macy's department store[16]), which allows Belk to operate in smaller markets.

Belk stores are particularly concentrated in the Carolinas,[9] although the Parisian purchase gave it a strong presence in Atlanta (its largest single market) and Birmingham.

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[17]).

File:Old Belk logo.png
Former Belk logo used from 1967 to 2010. The "All for you!" slogan was used from the late 1990s onward.

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 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.[18]

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.[19] The first Belk Bowl drew 58,427 fans in 2011, and the 2013 game drew 48,128.[20] On July 18, 2013, Belk announced the six-year extension of the Belk Bowl's partnership with the Atlantic Coast Conference beginning in 2014.[21] Under the current agreement the bowl will feature teams from the ACC and the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Flagship Locations

A Belk flagship location at Bridge Street Town Centre

The chain has multiple "flagship" locations—larger locations in metropolitan regional malls, with a more upscale assortment than most[22] and a wider array of merchandise and services including in-store salons.[23] They compete with other upscale department stores, such as Macy's, Dillard's and Nordstrom.[24] As of 2014, the chain claimed 18 flagship locations, and plans to upgrade more locations.


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  4. Belk, Inc.-- The Company and the Family That Built It
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  9. 9.0 9.1 Belk official website
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  17. SEC 2011 Def 14A proxy filing, p. 14
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External links