NEW YORK — Belk Inc. will double its presence in Texas next year when the addition of four units will bring its total store count in the state to eight.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based department store chain plans to open units in Waco, Sherman, Kerrville and McKinney, beginning next spring.

Although the months of their unveilings haven’t yet been determined, two openings are planned for next spring — a 96,000-square-foot store at the Central Texas MarketPlace in Waco and a 74,000-square-foot unit at the Sherman Town Center in Sherman.

A 56,000-square-foot store at the River Hills Mall in Kerrville is on the calendar for next March. In September 2004, Belk plans to unveil a 66,000-square-foot unit at Eldorado Plaza in McKinney.

The four new stores will be part of Belk’s western division under the management of Linda Zwern, chairwoman. The division is headquartered in Greenville, S.C.

Belk entered Texas with a store in the town of Paris in 1950. It added a store in Greenville in 1985, entered Nacogdoches in 2001 and Lufkin last year.

Sidestepping competition from Dillard’s, May Department Stores’ Foley’s division and other regional and national chains, Belk’s has focused its efforts in the Lone Star state in smaller towns with populations of 100,000 or less.

Collectively, the four stores represent an investment of $24.8 million for Belk, from a low of $3.6 million in Kerrville to a high of $8.8 million in Waco.

Through four regional divisions, Belk, the largest privately held department store company in the U.S., operates 218 stores in 13 southeastern states and last year had sales of $2.24 billion.

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