Belk: Modern. Southern. Style… IT
In November of last year, the Belk department store chain announced a $70 million rebranding effort including a logo redesign, a new tagline (Modern. Southern. Style.) and an advertising campaign.
At the time, Johnny Belk, president and chief operating officer, said, "We’ve been working hard in recent years to establish Belk as the brand leader, not only in cosmetics, but also in dresses, shoes, costume jewelry, accessories and denim. We felt the time was right to expand our profile and realign our corporate image to better reflect the kind of stores we operate today. Re-branding happens only once in a generation, and our recent strong financial performance and balance sheet have enabled us to make significant investments in the company to position Belk for long term growth and success."
The changes Belk has made in trying to appeal to consumers beyond its traditional Southern base appear to be paying off. For the first quarter ending April 30, Belk reported a sales increase of 5.6 percent overall and a 5.7 percent jump in comparable stores. Net income was up 31.3 percent for the period.
Mr. Belk said in a May press release that the company was happy with "the results produced thus far from our investments in branding and marketing, e-commerce, departmental remodels and information technology."
That last item, IT, is where "the real action is happening" at Belk, according to a piece on the Apparel Magazine website.
According to the report, Belk made a $150 million investment to transform its IT department as part of the company’s SMART (Strategic Merchandising and Retail Technology) initiative.
Belk CIO Mike Laurenti has pushed technology to help the company engage consumers through a multi-channel approach, including in stores, online, social media and mobile.
"Social commerce is going to dominate how we interact with our customers," Mr. Laurenti told Apparel Magazine. "It starts online, on Facebook, where you engage with friends and family — you begin your purchase not by walking into a store but on a social network. How do you bring all of these technologies together and prepare yourself for a world where the consumer expects to engage with Belk the way they want to?"
Belk also has made a move with core merchandising programs for stores. Mr. Laurenti said the company was taking steps to better integrate the online Belk experience with that in its stores.
- Belk, Inc. Reports First Quarter Operating Results – Belk, Inc.
- Belk Transformation Modernizes IT and Style – Apparel Magazine
- Belk Updates Branding, Tests Security – RetailWire
Discussion Questions: Is Belk typical/atypical of the types of investments retailers are making today in information technology? How much of an effect do IT investments have on retail chain top and bottom line performance?