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Belk says local store will stay

Belk, a private department store company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, plans to file for bankruptcy, but store closings and layoffs are not expected, a store representative said.

Jenny Anderson, Belk senior director of public relations, emphasized Monday, Feb. 1, that Belk had not yet filed for bankruptcy, but it has a plan for when that happens.

“Once we do file, we expect to be out of Chapter 11 by the end of February as we have reached an agreement with our sponsor and a majority of our lenders on the terms of a prepackaged plan,” she said.

She shared some details specifically with Farmville Belk employees and shoppers in mind.

“We do not anticipate any store closings or layoffs in conjunction with this financial restructuring, including our store in Farmville,” she said.

She noted that Belk will remain open for business and its customers will continue to receive quality merchandise and service.

“(The financial restructuring) will strengthen Belk financially as we continue to serve our customers normally,” Anderson said. “Our policies and commitment to providing quality service and merchandise are unchanged. The shopping experience with Belk, whether in our stores or online, will be the same that our customers have come to know, love and expect.”

Forbes.com Senior Contributor Warren Shoulberg shared a more pessimistic view of Belk’s future in a Jan. 26 article.

He noted that the company’s private equity owner, Sycamore Partners, is saying it will retain majority control of Belk with its lenders holding the balance, but Shoulberg added that whoever is running the show if and when Belk comes out of Chapter 11 will face a daunting set of circumstances that a clean balance sheet will do little to remedy.

He wrote that Belk’s physical footprint is no doubt too big to continue as is, saying not to be surprised to see as many as a third of its units closed, a process made much easier in bankruptcy proceedings. He also said the retailer’s e-commerce efforts are believed to be well behind industry standards, though he admitted that since Belk is a private company, that is only informed speculation. He also stated that most critically, Belk must find a way to make its department store retailing model relevant to a customer base that is increasingly being pulled down to Walmart and Target, sideways to the TJX group and other off-pricers and digitally to Amazon and other online retailers.