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Belk had the highest traffic rise of any department store chain in 2022

Al Urbanski
Belk will this year open five Belk Outlet locations.

Belk, the regional department store chain that recapitalized its business with a one-day Chapter 11 filing in 2021, recovered to become the segment’s traffic growth leader in 2022.

Aside from a two-week period last August, the North Carolina-based chain with some 300 stores across 16 states posted higher traffic increases than the baseline for the entire department store category last year, according to an analysis by cell data traffic-tracker

Belk traffic rose by 60% last April compared to a department store average of 23%. In the final shopping week of holiday season, when average store visits rose by 100%, Belk’s increase shot to 140%.

“Part of the reason Belk is resonating with consumers may be its engineering personalized customer experiences, which includes sending happy birthday emails with a coupon to subscribers,” said analyst Ezra Carmel. “This kind of promotional activity creates multiple consumer touchpoints throughout the birthday month, keeping Belk top-of-mind for self-gifters.”

In January, the chain opened its first Belk Outlet in Greenville, Tenn., in what had previously been a standard Belk location. The store includes clearance items shipped in from the rest of its stores, but also merchandise not sold across the rest of the chain. Most recently, Belk announced it planned to open five additional outlet locations by April 4. (Click here for the locations.)

In February 2023, traffic at the Belk Outlet was twice that drawn the previous February by the Belk department store that formerly occupied the space. Dwell times rose from 30 minutes to 33 minutes and the number of first-time shoppers increased, as well.

Value pricing powered the upsurge. After analyzing traffic from within 50 miles of the Greenville store, determined that the Belk Outlet attracted visits from more low-income shoppers and bargain-hunters.

On February 23, 2021, Belk filed for Chapter 11 protection with a plan that would allow Sycamore Partners, the chain’s owner, to cede a larger stake in the company to its lenders. The very next day, Belk announced it had successfully completed its financial restructuring. It received $225 million of new capital and reduced its debt by $450 million.

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