- Department store Belk last week "announced the elimination of a number of positions, primarily at our corporate office," a company spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email. The retailer is "providing competitive severance packages and outplacement services to support those affected," the spokesperson also said.
- The spokesperson declined to specify how many employees are affected and left open the possibility of further cuts. "We’re incrementally returning the remaining furloughed corporate associates to work through August," according to the emailed statement.
- Belk employs about 1,300 at its Charlotte, North Carolina, headquarters, according to the Charlotte Observer. Several employees, many in marketing and merchandising and some at stores, who were previously furloughed due to the pandemic, announced their job losses on LinkedIn in recent days.
The COVID-19 pandemic has interfered with a brand transformation that Belk announced to great fanfare last year, forcing the retailer to hold on to more fundamental aspects of the business.
The retailer enjoys strong loyalty in the South, but has been up against the same forces bedeviling all department stores, including ebbing apparel sales growth, the rise of off-price retail and the decline of the middle class. In 2018, the company eliminated dozens of assistant store manager, operations manager and sales team manager positions in Belk stores across 16 states, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The store closures mandated by public officials in their effort to stymie the pandemic's spread have made its existing challenges more difficult to meet. And those difficulties continue even as stores have reopened in most places.
"In order to weather the impacts of COVID-19, Belk has had to make some of the most difficult decisions of its 130-year history," the company spokesperson told Retail Dive. "This included closing our stores to customers for more than six weeks and placing a large number of our associates on furlough in late March."
While for most of its history the department store was under the control of the founding family, that has steadily eroded since private equity firm Sycamore acquired it in 2015. Tim Belk, a member of the third generation of the founding Belk family, retired as CEO in 2016 after 12 years; his brother, Johnny Belk, by then had already left his job as chief operating officer.
Sycamore Partners declined to comment for this story.