By  on December 4, 2008

Belk Inc.’s third-quarter loss widened on lower sales.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based firm, the largest privately held U.S. department store, registered a net loss of $23.5 million versus a year-ago loss of $6.9 million. In the three months ended Nov. 1, sales slipped 8.3 percent to $741.4 million from $808.3 million in the 2007 quarter as comparable-store sales fell 9.8 percent.

The cost of goods sold declined 8.3 percent, to $532.6 million, but selling, general and administrative expenses grew 0.8 percent to $235.5 million.

“Like many retailers, we have continued to experience the effects of a severe economic slowdown,” said Tim Belk, chairman and chief executive officer. “However, we have maintained a strong balance sheet and positive cash flow, which places us in a good position to weather the downturn.”

Belk is “continuing to invest in our business with the opening of three new stores, the relaunch of our expanded Web site and the development of new brands,” he said.

The Kristin Davis collection, available in 125 stores and at, will be expanded to additional units for spring. Belk operates 308 department stores in 16 states in the South and Southeast. While privately held, it discloses quarterly results because of public debt.

For the nine months, Belk had a net loss of $10.2 million versus net income of $10.1 million. Sales were down 7.9 percent to $2.39 billion from $2.59 billion in the comparable period last year. Year-to-date same-store sales fell 7.5 percent.

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