|Belk Inc.’s new distribution center in Union County, S.C., will add half a million square feet to the company’s fulfillment operations. (Photo/Belk Inc.)|
Published July 5, 2012
UNION COUNTY, S.C. — Belk Inc., one of the South’s largest and oldest department store chains, cut the ribbon Friday on a 512,000-square-foot distribution center in Union County, to accommodate the company’s growing e-commerce venture.
The facility, which once housed The Walt Disney Co.’s catalog center, is nearly triple the size of Belk’s existing e-commerce distribution center in Pineville, N.C., on the outskirts of Belk’s home base in Charlotte.
“Belk’s e-commerce growth has been very strong, and to accommodate the demand from our customers, we need additional fulfillment space,” said President and COO John R. Belk.
“Belk’s e-commerce growth has been very strong, and to accommodate the demand from our customers, we need additional fulfillment space.”
— President and COO John R. Belk
Belk entered the online retail business in the fall of 2008 — 120 years after founder William Henry Belk opened his first store in Monroe, N.C.
The company launched into online retailing with a redesigned and expanded website and began e-commerce operations from the 110,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Pineville.
Belk added 140,000 square feet to the facility in 2011, and that, according to company projections, was enough to accommodate another two years’ growth.
Online sales, though, have outpaced Belk’s game plan. In three years, Belk’s online sales have rocketed by 353%.
In 2009, the first full year of e-commerce operations, Belk reported $20.5 million in online sales. The next year, 2010, sales reached $34.8 million, and last year the company reported Web sales of $72.4 million.
Belk’s total sales revenue, combining stores and online, was $3.7 billion in 2011.
In October, company executives concluded that the retailer would need more space in six months.
Belk, which operates a 371,000-square-foot distribution center in Blythewood, considered nearby sites, then learned about the former Disney site.
The Disney facility, located off U.S. Highway 176, near the Spartanburg County line, already had a conveyor system and storage racks installed. Belk could cut a process that normally takes a year to 18 months and set up an existing building as a distribution center to just a few months.
Belk executives visited Jonesville in November and by December the company had signed a letter of intent to lease the Disney facility. In early March, Belk announced it was moving to Union County.
Belk sees e-commerce as an opportunity to expand its brand nationally. It plans to invest $53 million into its online business over the next four years create a new platform with better functionality.