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Belk CEO Nir Patel leaves chain of stores; acting chief appointed

Nir Patel has unexpectedly stepped down as CEO of Charlotte-based department store Belk after less than a year on the job.

Patel” is leave the company to pursue other interests,” the company said in a press release Friday.

Patel, Belk’s former merchandising director, replaced Lisa Harper as CEO last July. Harper had run the company since July 2016. In May, she was named CEO of women’s clothier Torrid Holdings Inc.

Nir Patel - Headshot - Resized.jpg
Nir Patel Belk

Belk has named its chairman, Don Hendricks, as interim chief executive effective Monday, May 16, according to the announcement.

“As President and Chief Operating Officer, Hendricks has been instrumental in steering the company through the continued unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic and has led the company’s initiatives to improve its omnichannel capabilities,” the statement said.

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to lead the talented team at Belk,” Hendricks said in the statement. “I am proud of our continued work to advance the business in many ways, while 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, the statement said. 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 did not immediately respond to an email request for comment from the Observer on Saturday whether there were other reasons for Patel’s departure.

Patel did not immediately respond 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, calling into question the long-term viability of the business, retail experts told the Charlotte Observer in February.

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

The 134-year-old company with nearly 300 stores in 16 southern states has a loyal clientele. But that’s also slipping, said Nick Egelanian, retail analyst and president of Construction sitesa Maryland-based retail development company.

Department stores can’t compete with “ubiquitous” businesses, he said, that offer lower prices and amenities, like Burlington and TJX stores owned by TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods.

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

Following its bankruptcy, Belk took on management and other internal moves last summer. The company also launched contactless services and new products.

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

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

Also last summer, Belk announced it would sublet its headquarters on Tyvola Road in Charlotte, where about 1,200 employees work. Belk has approximately 17,000 full-time and part-time employees in its stores and distribution center.

Catherine Muccigrosso, Charlotte Observer business writer, contributed to this story.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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

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