Last month Reuters reported that private equity firm Sycamore Partners was preparing a $3 billion to $3.5 billion bid for Belk department stores.
Department stores have struggled in an era of specialty and discount retailers and e-commerce.
But the essence of Belk may reside in a local loyalty, reports the Charlotte Observer.
Each of America’s department stores, which were once iconic retailers in their hometowns in the last century, face a unique set of challenges right now.
But “there are certain things that they all must consider,” writes Lauren Sherman at Fashionista, who took a spin through a few for a report in April.
"No matter the price point, the product needs to be unique. It also needs to be easily accessible across every channel. And the customer must be treated better, not only through great return policies and friendly salespeople but also through better-looking stores and more customized experiences. At the moment, retailers are spoiled for choice when it comes to the brands they can sell. But as more Internet-first, director-to-consumer labels start popping up – and turning a profit – that choice is destined to dwindle. Department stores need to make themselves attractive to brands, too.”
Belk has seemed to have accomplished that. “[Belk’s] regional identity has a strong following in the South, though, and it’s one of the things people love most about the company,” writes Katherine Peralta in the Charlotte Observer. “It’s hard to avoid the pastel seersucker pants and the pops of color from Lilly Pulitzer dresses at big Belk stores like SouthPark.”
If a takeover does happen, the challenge will be to preserve that regional loyalty in any effort to expand Belk’s reach.