March 30, 2012, 12:21 PM

Belk is bullish on e-commerce

The retail chain is investing $4.5 million in a new e-commerce fulfillment center.

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Belk Inc., a chain of more than 300 apparel, gifts and home furnishing stores in the southern United States, plans to invest heavily in e-commerce as one of its key growth strategies, the retailer says.

The company, which is privately held and does not release full financial data, reported the following financial results for the fiscal year ended January 28:

● Web sales of $72.4 million, a 108.0% increase compared with $34.8 million last year.

● Total sales rose 5.3% to $3.7 billion

● Net income jumped 43.5% to $183.1 million from $127.6 million

● Same-store sales rose 5.5%

“Our financial performance last year was one of the strongest ever,” chairman and CEO Tim Belk says. Belk, which was founded in 1888 and is operated by the third-generation Belk family, is No. 296 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

The company attributes the growth to several initiatives, including e-commerce, merchandising, store remodeling and improvements to customer service. Among its improvements were remodeled shoe and jewelry departments in dozens of its stores; the retailer did not immediately reply to a request for more details on these initiatives.

To maintain its growth, Belk plans to invest about $600 million over a five-year period that began with the last fiscal year. The investment will cover improvements in e-commerce, information technology, merchandise planning and product sourcing.

Belk has not released details on all these efforts, but it says the investment in e-commerce will partly focus on a new 515,000-square-foot fulfillment center slated to open in June in Jonesville, SC. The retailer says it is making a $4.5 million capital investment in the center, which it expects to create 124 jobs over the next five years.

Murali Bandaru, Belk’s director of I.T. solutions delivery for e-commerce and bridal systems, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in a session about working with e-commerce technology vendors titled “Mega mergers: how to negotiate with the big as they get bigger.” Bandaru also spoke about web page design at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference in February.

The IRCE $200 early-bird discount expires March 31.

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