I. History of Belk Stores
A. The Beginning
1. Belk got its start when 26-year-old William Henry Belk opened a small bargain store in Monroe, N.C., on May 29, 1888.
2. The first store measured only 22 by 70 feet, about 1,500 square feet. Mr. Belk called it the New York Racket; he thought it made the store sound big and would attract business.
3. Mr. Belk started with $750 in savings, a $500, 10% interest loan from a local widow, and about $3,000 worth of goods taken on consignment from a bankrupt store. In less than seven months, he had paid off his debts and netted a $3,300 profit.
B. Innovative Ideas
1. Mr. Belk introduced some radically new retailing ideas for those times:
A. He bought large quantities of goods for cash and sold for cash at a low mark-up.
B. All merchandise was clearly marked with its retail price -- no haggling over prices was allowed.
C. Customers could return any merchandise purchased if they were not completely satisfied.
D. These innovative ideas helped the Belk stores succeed and grow.
C. Early Advertising
1. Mr. Belk used innovative advertising:
A. His slogan for the first store was "Cheap Goods Sell Themselves," and he referred to the New York Racket store and other early stores as "The Cheapest Store on Earth."
B. He often wrote his own lively and humorous newspaper ads.
D. Three Generations of Belk Family Leadership
1. In 1891, William Henry Belk persuaded his brother, Dr. John M. Belk, to leave the medical profession and become a partner in the Monroe store, beginning a remarkable 37-year business association that resulting in the opening of stores throughout the Carolinas. The company became Belk Brothers Company.
2. The brothers opened a second store in 1893 in Chester, S.C., and a third in 1894 in Union, S.C. In 1895, William Henry Belk left the Monroe store to open the company's fourth store in Charlotte, N.C., which became the company’s base of operations.
3. Dr. John Belk continued to manage the Monroe store until his death in 1928.
4. William Henry Belk headed the Belk stores until his death at age 89 in 1952.
5. John M. Belk and Thomas M. “Tom” Belk, sons of William Henry Belk, led the company for more than a half century. Tom Belk, longtime president and chief merchandising officer of Belk stores, died in 1997. John Belk retired as chairman and chief executive officer of Belk, Inc. in 2004 and was elected chairman emeritus. He died on August 17, 2007.
6. Belk today is in the third generation of Belk family leadership. Thomas M. (Tim) Belk, Jr. is chairman and chief executive officer of Belk, Inc.; John R. (Johnny) Belk is president and chief operating officer, and H.W. McKay Belk is past president and chief merchandising officer and a member of the Belk, Inc. board of directors. Tim, Johnny and McKay are sons of the late Thomas M. Belk nephews of the late John M. Belk.
E. Key Company Developments
1. In May 1998, the former 112 separate Belk corporations were merged into one company – Belk, Inc., America’s largest privately owned mainline department store company.
2. The company’s merchandising and marketing functions were consolidated into a single organization located at its corporate offices in Charlotte effective on August 5, 2002. The new organization includes a central merchandise planning and allocation function that manages the distribution and allocation of merchandise to stores. The organization is responsible for buying, marketing, sales promotion, and merchandise planning and allocation for all Belk stores.
3. On July 5, 2005, Belk acquired 47 Proffitt’s and McRae’s stores from Saks Incorporated. The stores, most of which are located in Tennessee and Mississippi, began operating under the Belk name in spring 2006.
4. Belk purchased the assets of Migerobe, Inc., on July 31, 2006, and established a fine jewelry division at its corporate headquarters in Charlotte to operate fine jewelry departments in many of its stores under the Belk and Co. Fine Jewelers name.
5. On October 2, 2006, Belk purchased 40 Parisian department stores located in nine Southeastern and Midwestern states from Saks Incorporated. Twenty-five of the former Parisian stores celebrated their grand opening under the Belk name in September 2007.
6. The company re-launched its totally redesigned Belk.com Web site in fall 2008 and began offering greatly expanded assortments of fashion apparel, accessories and shoes, plus cosmetics, home and gift merchandise.
7. In February 2009, the company consolidated its four store operating divisions into three divisions with division offices located in Atlanta, Ga., Raleigh, N.C. and Birmingham, Ala.
8. In October, 2010, Belk launched an updated corporate identity that projects the company’s restated mission, “to satisfy the modern Southern lifestyle like no one else, so that our customers get the fashion they desire and the value they deserve.” The new identity package features a new corporate logo, color palette and tagline – Modern. Southern. Style. – that replaces the logo and identity program adopted by the company in 1967.