The History of Belk Department Stores

what's up guys Justin with the podcast

dojo a few weeks ago I covered the

history of the Kmart stores and this

week I want to talk about the history of

belf department stores as I mentioned in

the community tab I am really enjoying

doing company histories and I think is

the breath of fresh air this channel

needs so without further ado let's talk

about Belk department stores going all

the way back to Monroe North Carolina in

1888 William Belk opened up his first

apartment store using a $750 investment

in a $500 loan the store's original name

was New York racket in attempt to

attract customers he would eventually

convince his brother to be a business

partner coming with that the name would

change too from New York racket to Belk

Brothers I wonder if it would have

stayed New York racket if the brother

had not joined William Belk used a few

simple business practices to keep his

stores alive he would buy large

quantities of items and sell them for a

low mark up all merchandise was sold at

its retail price with no haggling

allowed and customers could return

merchandise at any time if they were not

satisfied yes these business that

practices seemed very commonplace today

but for William Belk time this was quite

revolutionary in 1921 John Belk nephew

will leg it opened up a store with the

Belk and Wilmington North Carolina and

his brother Fred Leggett would open up a

store in Danville Virginia now this is

the perfect time to mention that in 1923

the Belk brothers began to hire and

train men to open and run stores early

partners in these stores would have

their names added to the storefront so I

mentioned the Leggett brothers their

stores would be called Belk Leggett

however unlike other store partners the

Leggett brothers owned 80 percent of

their stores and Belk owned the

remaining 20% also remember the Leggett

name it'll be very important later

during the stock market crash of 1929

sales did slow for Belk however they

found a way to make this work in their

favor as many stores and companies were

folding Belk acquired that her defunct

stores and opened 22 stores between 1930

and 1931

in 1934 ELQ opened 27 new stores and

expanded into Georgia and Tennessee in

the process Belk would also move its

headquarters to Charlotte North Carolina

as it was steadily growing with the rise

of other companies such as JCPenney

Montgomery Ward and Sears Belk cut costs

in order to update their stores so how

did they cut costs rather than having

quarterly meetings they just held one

annual convention

William Bell died in 1952 at the age of


however he worked for the company as the

head until the day of his death after

the death of William Belk his son Henry

took over the company as well as his

other two sons John and Tom six months

after the death of William Belk henry

Belk opened up the first shopping center

location in Florida this brought

something new to the table fancy and

interior music playing in items out for

self-service once again commonplace now

but was groundbreaking back then Henry

would continue to open up more stores

without consulting his family which

resulted in lawsuits the lawsuits were

eventually dropped but Henry but left

Henry to his Belk Lindsay company and

made John Belk president of the company

John would eventually become chairman of

the company and making Tom the president

the feud between them and Henry would

last for the next four decades by the

late 1950s ELQ had 16 stores in 16

states with 325 locations as the 60s and

70s progressed Belk had to start making

the change to shopping malls and adjust

to credit card sales although 87% of all

transactions were still a cash stores

had to start carrying more upscale

fashion brands and products as well tom

was now the president and CEO and he

hosted the first fashion buying show in

New York in 1983 leading to four major

fashion designers competing for

representation in the show though some

stores retained their bargain budget

items most stores adapted to the new

vision of more upscale items and located

themselves in shopping malls and

shopping centers

the company celebrated its 100th

anniversary in 1988 by opening a new

office complex in Charlotte North


the 90s recession proved to be difficult

as a result of the rise of discount

stores however Belk was known to have a

rock-solid foundation and survived it

all Leggett who had been a longtime

partner of the chain was looking to

merge with Dillard's department stores

this resulted in Belk taking control of

the Virginia stores in the fall of 1996

now I remember when I said remembered a

Leggett name

well story time as I mentioned him other

videos of mine Leggett was an anchor at

South Park Mall in Colonial Heights

Virginia which was also my childhood

mall Virginia Center Collins had a

legged as well

well I remember Belk showing up to

replace the Leggett wing in 1996 for

about a year until Dillard's took over

in fact after Dillard's moved in

I thought Belk had gone out of business

until I was driving through North

Carolina and saw a Belk store if you had

them all with a Leggett in it please let

me know down below a sudden shift and

management happened at the start of 1997

when Thomas Belk unexpectedly died after

gallbladder surgery leaving his three

sons to take over this also makes the

third generation of Belk that run well

belf department stores they each had a

strategy which involved cost reduction

consolidation of operations and a

special focus on inventory and the

customer there were currently 225 stores

in 13 states in 1997 with half of them

being North Carolina and South Carolina

the 112 companies involved with Belk

merged into one company Belk

incorporated I also heard that a lot of

this was so that way they wouldn't have

to file a hundred separate tax returns

in the late 90s of Belk national bank

opened in Lawrenceville Georgia

increasing credit-card businesses Belk

tried online kiosks and the stores to

increase sales but only had luck with

more wedding registries they did however

launch an online store in 2001 Bell

continued to prosper in the tooth

even after the economy took the hit

after the September 11th attacks in 2005

to 2006 Belk acquired more than 90

profits McRae's and Parsons of

department department stores from Saks

giving them company leverage in Alabama

Mississippi and Tennessee and 2013 Belk

decided to celebrate 125 years by

investing 800 million dollars over the

course of three years to fund improving

their technology improving customer

service their supply chain distribution

remodel existing stores and open new

stores 2016 marked not only the first

CEO of Belk but also the first CEO who

was not connected to the Belk family

this new CEO is Lisa Harper with a new

admission to uphold the modern southern

style while focusing on Belk rich

history the company announced a two-year

plan in 2017 to open and refresh stores

and invest 30 million dollars into

e-commerce and improve the mobile app

and that brings us up-to-date with what

is happening with Belk as of 2020 I have

to say of all the companies I've

researched for this YouTube channel I

was pleasantly surprised with this one

no scummy CEOs bad business decisions a

very strong company indeed I hope the

current CEO continues to make the

company flourish and prosper before we

close out tell us your experience with

these stores did you have a Leggett in

your area anyway guys hope you enjoyed

the video hope you learned something

until next time