Belk to lay off 30 to 40

Belk Inc. plans to lay off 30 to 40 employees in its information technology department by next March as part of an outsourcing move.

The employees handle the Charlotte-based retailer's application services, which include system maintenance, support and upgrades, spokesman Steve Pernotto said Friday.

Belk is still working to determine which firm will handle those duties and is considering both domestic and overseas companies, he said.

By outsourcing to an operation that handles IT on a larger scale, Belk is aiming to improve efficiency, save money and keep its computer systems more up-to-date, Pernotto said.

The company met with affected employees individually last week to tell them the news, Pernotto said. They will receive severance and placement assistance.

Belk is adding jobs elsewhere: The company is in the midst of adding 61 jobs in its E-commerce and private label departments, Pernotto said. The company is bolstering its efforts in both of those categories.

Belk outsourced other parts of its technology operations, including its IT help desk, to firms within the United States in 2001 and 2002. About 70 people were laid off then.

Belk is the nation's largest privately held department store chain, with more than 300 stores in 16 states. Like other, similar retailers, its sales have taken a hit in recent months amid an economic downturn and a slowdown in consumer spending.

The company's net income dropped 46 percent to $5.1 million in the quarter that ended last month.