Belk will open three stores through 2018 and spend a total of $40 million on the new locations as well as remodels and capital improvements.
While the expansion seems surprising considering the widespread closings occurring this year in the retail industry at stores such as Macy’s, Sears and J.C. Penney, Belk has long been a well-run company that historically kept its growth in check by maintaining its regional focus rather than going national. It’s also maintained a loyal following of shoppers in the south.
“We really want to be an asset to the communities in which we operate,” said Lisa Harper, chief executive officer of the Charlotte, N.C.-based Belk. “Our goal — and really, our hope — is to build lasting relationships with our customers and associates.”
Belk is taking over a Macy’s location in Evans, Ga., in the Mullins Colony shopping center and will open there on Oct. 11.
That same day, another Belk will open in Bowling Green, Ky., anchoring the Greenwood Mall. That is a new store being built.
The third Belk store will open in 2018 in Hagerstown, Md., in the Valley Mall where Belk has taken over a Bon-Ton store.
The new stores will offer the buy online, pick up in store service, phone charging stations and a service desk at the entrances for quick access to services such as gift wrapping, returns and Belk Rewards Card payments.
In 2017, Belk will remodel 12 stores, representing an investment of nearly $10 million, the company said. An additional $15 million will be spent on capital improvements such as parking lots, paint and roofing.
Belk operates 292 Belk stores in 16 states. Only one store is set to close, a unit in Birmingham, Ala., in 2018. After the closing, Belk will have four stores in the market.
“We’ve been successful in making a personal connection between our brand and our customers,” Harper said. “Our customers truly believe they know us and we are a part of their community; and they feel Belk is their store. We want to provide that level of personal connection in every community we enter.”
Belk was purchased by Sycamore Partners in December 2015 for $68 a share, representing an enterprise value of $3 billion. The deal put the southern regional department store chain in the hands of a private equity company after being Belk family-controlled for 127 years since the company was founded.