Southern retail staple Belk began browsing for a buyer in April. It might have found a taker.
The news service Reuters, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, reported Thursday that private equity firm Sycamore Partners is considering an offer valued in the range of $3 billion to $3.5 billion for the Charlotte-based family-owned department store chain.
The report also said Belk could make a decision this month.
The company, a mainstay of the Charleston shopping scene for nearly nine decades, said in April it was exploring all options. At that time, Belk Inc. said it had hired investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to help it evaluate strategic alternatives.
“Belk’s focus on a long-term strategic approach has been a key factor in the company’s success. We are entering our scheduled five-year strategic planning process within a rapidly changing industry,” a spokeswoman said in an April statement. “We are coming off a successful fourth quarter, have a strong financial position and are enthusiastic about our future. We also believe, however, that we have an obligation to consider whether there are alternatives to our current plans that would provide a better return for our stockholders.”
Belk operates about 300 stores, mainly in the Southern region of the United States.
The chain has been selling clothing and other goods in Charleston since 1926, when Belk-Robinson Co. opened at 232 King St., now the site of Belmond Charleston Place. Belk has four department stores throughout the region, including a newly expanded “flagship” location at Mount Pleasant Towne Centre.
Founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk, the company is in the third generation of Belk-family leadership.
The retailer’s fiscal first quarter ended May 2. Sales for the period edged up 3 percent to $958 million compared to a year ago, while profits climbed 13 percent to $21.8 million, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.