Belk cost-cuts its way to a 9.3% increase in profits

Belk Inc. earnings rose 9.3 percent in the second quarter, even though sales fell 5.7 percent as consumers continued to cut back in a faltering economy.

The Charlotte-based department store chain reported revenue of $829.3 million for the three months that ended Aug. 2, down from $879.6 million in the same period last year. Sales at stores open a year or more, an important measure of retail performance, were down 4 percent.

The company's net income increased to $8.2 million, up from $7.5 million in the second quarter of 2007. However, Belk did considerably worse during that quarter last year than it had in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The increase this year was due to an improvement in gross margins as a percentage of sales and lower expenses, the company said in a news release Thursday.

“We have responded to the difficult economic environment by managing inventories and expense and continuing to give customers compelling reasons to shop with us,” chairman and CEO Tim Belk said in the release. “While sales results were disappointing, we were pleased to deliver a profit improvement through the hard work and efforts of our associates throughout the company.”

During the quarter, the company also announced new partnerships with “Sex and the City” actress Kristin Davis, whose fashion line will debut in 125 Belk stores this fall, and professional golfer D.J. Trahan, who is endorsing Belk's Pro Tour private-label golf and performance wear.

Jen Aronoff

High buys office complex near UNCC

High Associates Ltd. has acquired Prosperity Place, a 215,226-square-foot complex of three office buildings at University Research Park in northeast Charlotte, for an undisclosed price.

The buildings, constructed from 1999 to 2001, are on 12 acres near the company's 100,000-square-foot Mallard Pointe One facility.

The purchase boosts High Associates' Charlotte presence to more than 315,000 square feet.

“The acquisition of Prosperity Place enlarges our footprint in Charlotte's dynamic University area submarket and provides our customers with a wider array of Class-A office space solutions,” said Steve Brown, regional manager.

Lancaster, Pa.-based High Associates, an affiliate of High Real Estate Group, is the developer/owner of more than 9 million square feet of office, industrial, retail and multifamily properties in the eastern United States.

Doug Smith

Walgreens going up on U.S. 521 in S.C.

Construction has begun on a 14,820-square-foot Walgreens store in the South Village of Cornerstone at U.S. 521 and Jim Wilson Road in Lancaster County across from Sun City Carolina Lakes.

“Walgreens chose this location because of its close proximity to a solid road system, desired demographics and the prospective stronghold of retail and medical uses envisioned at this intersection,” said Scott Bortz, retail partner with Tribek Properties, Walgreens preferred developer.

The freestanding store, to open in March, will include a drive-through pharmacy, a convenience grocery and a 24-hour photo development center.

Crosland is developing the shopping center, which will include a North Village totaling 800,000 square feet.

Nolan Mills of Bissell Patrick represented the buyer in the land deal for the Walgreens store.

Doug Smith