We last checked in on the department store space through the lens of luxury leader Nordstrom. In this department store deep dive we took an in-depth look at Belk – a mid-tier chain based in North Carolina – which recently launched its first two Belk Outlet stores. Following the lead of other department stores, the new format signals Belk’s foray into the growing off-price market.
Drawing on the latest location intelligence data, we dove into the foot traffic to the first of the new Belk Outlet locations and the Belk chain as a whole to take a closer look at what lies ahead for this increasingly popular department store format.
A Department Store Winner
Despite a year of inflationary woes that plagued department store foot traffic recently, Belk has emerged ahead of the category – which includes mid-tier and luxury brands – for most of 2022. Belk outperformed the department store category when comparing monthly visits to a January 2022 baseline almost every month of 2022, including during the all-important holiday season.
Part of the reason Belk is resonating with consumers may be its engineering of personalized customer experiences, which includes sending happy birthday emails with a coupon to subscribers. This kind of promotional activity creates multiple consumer touch points throughout the birthday month, keeping Belk top-of-mind for self-gifters.
Belk Outlet: Stepping into the Off-Price Ring
On the heels of a successful 2022, on January 30th, 2023 Belk opened the first Belk Outlet in Greenville, TN at a renovated Belk location – the first of five Belk Outlets slated for this year. The new store offers a wider product selection of and lower prices. And while the outlet sells clearance items from other Belk stores, it also carries name brands not available at other locations. The store’s merchandising strategy appears to be aligned with the current demand for both luxury items and lower price points.
Since becoming a Belk Outlet, the Greenville, TN location has seen significant improvements to foot traffic. Between February 2022 and February 2023, visits per sq ft doubled and dwell times increased. Visits and visitors both increased, but visitors had a more rapid growth trajectory, meaning more unique visitors are driving visits to the new store.
The success of the first Belk Outlet store is good news for the retailer. The company plans to expand the Belk Outlet concept through remodels of locations that currently house full-price Belk venues, which will allow the retailer to keep its fleet lean. And by completing these conversions in a relatively short amount of time the brand can get back to serving consumers quickly after each store’s transition.
Demographic Insights into Belk’s Visitors
In order to gain insights into the visitation trends of the new Belk Outlet, we conducted a trade area analysis of the Greenville, TN location – analyzing 70% of foot traffic within 50 mi. – before and after it became Belk Outlet. The analysis revealed that the Belk Outlet drove visits from more bargain-hunting families and low-income shoppers. This could indicate that the new Belk Outlet is of particular interest to value-driven consumers looking to stretch their budgets.
As per the Experian: Mosaic dataset, the Belk Outlet’s trade area included a larger share of consumers belonging to the “Families in Motion” and “Thrifty Habits” segments compared to the location’s trade area during its term as Belk. And according to the Spatial.ai: PersonaLive dataset, the Belk Outlet’s trade area also included more consumers belonging to the “Rural Low Income” and “Small Town Low Income” segments than when the location was a Belk department store.
Belk to the Future
The future of Belk department stores seems bright as the brand continues to cultivate a personal relationship with customers and bring them the right mix of merchandise.
The chain has positioned itself for success through its adoption of some of the most current retail strategies including a store-in-store partnership with home goods brand Conn’s. The introduction of Belk Outlet signals the brand’s latest move to find success in the in-demand off-price space.
For updates and more data-driven foot traffic insights, visit Placer.ai.