Belk CEO stepping down after less than a year at the helm of department store chain

Nir Patel Belk

Belk appointed its president, Don Hendricks, as interim chief executive officer effective Monday, May 16, according to the announcement.

“As president and chief operating officer, Hendricks was instrumental in leading the company through the continued unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic and spearheaded the company’s initiatives to enhance its omnichannel capabilities,” according to the statement.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead the talented team at Belk,” Hendricks said in the release. “I’m proud of our continued work to advance the business in numerous ways, while still keeping the well-being of our customers, associates and communities as a top priority.”

Hendricks joined Belk in 2016 as chief operating officer before adding stores to his responsibilities in 2019 and being named president in 2020, according to the statement. He previously worked at Gymboree, Hot Topic and Torrid, including where his roles included chief information officer and chief operating officer.

Belk spokeswoman Jessica Rohlik didn’t immediately reply to an emailed request for comment from the Observer on Saturday as to whether more was behind Patel’s departure.

Patel didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment on his LinkedIn page.

Experts: Little change at Belk

The iconic department store has changed little since emerging from bankruptcy a year ago, bringing into question the company’s long-term sustainability, retail experts told The Charlotte Observer in February.

“I haven’t seen anything significantly different to their product line, or in terms of ways of promoting products,” said Steven Cox, a marketing professor at Queens University of Charlotte. “What’s apparent that they have done to differentiate themselves from the rest of the industry? I can’t see it.”

The 134-year-old company with nearly 300 store in 16 southern states has a loyal following of customers. But that’s slipping, too, said Nick Egelanian, retail analyst and president of Siteworks, a Maryland-based retail development firm.

Department stores can’t compete with “ubiquitous” companies, he said, that offer lower prices and convenience, such as Burlington and TJX-owned stores T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods.

“It’s a generational problem,” Egelanian said. “If you’re Belk, what are you going to be? What’s your special offer?”

Following its bankruptcy, Belk made leadership and other internal moves last summer. The company also launched some contactless services and new products.

The biggest change came at the top, with the promotion of Patel from president and chief of merchandising officer to CEO, replacing Harper.

Patel’s background included e-commerce and marketing for Belk for five years.

Also last summer, Belk said it would sublease its corporate office on Tyvola Road in Charlotte, where about 1,200 employees work. Belk has about 17,000 full- and part-time workers at its stores and distribution center.

Charlotte Observer business writer Catherine Muccigrosso contributed to this story.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

This story was originally published May 14, 2022 8:21 AM.

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