BELK’S NET CLIMBS 38% IN FIRST HALF

NEW YORK — Led by strong sales of women’s fashion items, first-half earnings for Belk Inc., the nation’s largest privately held department store operator, climbed 38 percent to $20.5 million from $14.8 million a year earlier.
Excluding one-time costs associated with its restructuring into four regional divisions and $1 million extraordinary charge in the prior fiscal period, earnings climbed 64 percent, the company said Tuesday.
“The increase continues a strong performance trend following Belk’s corporate and organizational restructuring and implementation of strategic merchandising initiatives,” John M. Belk, chairman and chief executive of the Charlotte, N.C., chain, said in a statement.
Sales for the six months ended July 31 climbed 9 percent to $984.3 million from $903.2 million, boosted by the inclusion of $16.3 million in first-quarter revenues from the former Belk Simpson corporation as part of its reorganization last year. Belk started publicly reporting its results after the reorganization, which merged 112 operating companies into one.
Same-store sales climbed 4.8 percent and were led by women’s fashion apparel, jewelry and cosmetics.
“We have made a major effort to better satisfy the personal needs of our core customer. She has responded very favorably to this enhanced merchandise direction,” said John Belk.
In the half, selling, general and administrative expenses fell to 26.9 percent of sales from 27.6 percent a year earlier; costs of goods sold as a percentage of sales fell to 67.3 percent from 67.5 percent in the prior-year period.
During the half, Belk relocated and expanded stores in Clinton and Morganton, N.C., and Mt. Pleasant, S.C. In the second half, the company plans to relocate two more stores and expand and renovate 14.
Belk, founded in 1888, operates over 200 stores in 13 Southeast and mid-Atlantic states.