Future of Belk stores, rooted in Carolinas, uncertain as company files for bankruptcy


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- The future is uncertain for Belk, a department store rooted in the Carolinas. The company announced this week it’s filing for bankruptcy.

“It certainly is an iconic name and generations of people have grown up shopping those stores. I know when I was growing up, I would go to my Belk store in Aberdeen, North Carolina, and that’s where I bought my blue jeans,” said Darrell Williams who worked at Belk’s corporate office for 35 years.

Belk, which started in 1888, with a bargain store in downtown Monroe and later located its first headquarters in Charlotte where the Spectrum Center is now, just announced it’s filing for bankruptcy.

“I was shocked and surprised and disappointed. You never like to hear that kind of news about a company you care a lot about,” said Williams.

Belk tells FOX 46 it doesn’t plan on closing any stores anytime soon. Experts say filing for Chapter 11 will allow the company to refocus.

“What we’re dealing with is there are not going to be big signs on the door, ‘going out of business,’ they’re not going away. What they’re doing is reorganizing,” said John Connaughton, Professor of Financial Economics at UNC-Charlotte’s Belk College of Business.

The Belks have been pillars in and around Charlotte. Their name is on the UNC-Charlotte College of Business, the Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts and they have a foundation supporting education.

The Belk famly sold the company for $3 billion in 2015.

Williams worked with the Belk family’s second-generation owners. He says they took Belk from a bargain store to a top fashion retailer selling products by big designers.

“Oscar de la Renta–he came several times for ribbon cuttings at Belk stores.

Williams understands that people aren’t shopping the way they used to.

“I generally do it online, it’s a lot more convenient,” said Alisha Naik, a UNC-Charlotte student.

But Williams hopes somehow Belk will remain.

“The name through several generations where people went to shop.”

FOX 46 also asked the Professor Connaughton about survivability of malls in general.

He said malls like SouthPark will likely survive but look different in the future with new stores, and he says smaller malls are probably going to close or be repurposed into something else.

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