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Belk sales up in 2012

Sales at Charlotte-based department store company Belk rose 7 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year, the company said Thursday.

Belk executives attributed much of the increase to booming online sales and an extra week in the 2012 fiscal year. Total sales at the company rose to $3.96 billion, up from $3.7 billion in 2011. Profits increased more slowly, rising just under 3 percent to $188 million.

The company has invested $600 million in improving its information technology and e-commerce, and last year opened a 515,000-square-foot order distribution center in Jonesville, S.C. Belk trailed its competitors in establishing a strong online business, but said the company’s efforts are now paying off.

Online sales increased 87 percent compared to 2011. They remained a small portion of the company’s overall revenue, however, making up about 3.4 percent of sales.

Belk said that increasing online sales are also driving more in-person customer visits to its stores. Sales at Belk stores open for a year or more, considered a key measure of a retailer’s health, rose 6.3 percent.

Belk operates more than 300 department stores, and is the largest privately held department store in the nation. Much of the company’s stock is still held by the Belk family.

The board of directors also has authorized a $100-million stock buyback.

Portillo: 704-358-5041 On Twitter @ESPortillo
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