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Belk Profits Down, Adds Private Brands

Southeastern department store operator Belk Inc. saw first-quarter profits slashed as sales fell, but the retailer launched two private label programs and continued to integrate 25 former Parisian stores into the chain.

Net income at the 307-store, privately held company was $5.1 million for the first quarter, down 46.3% from $9.5 million in the same period one year ago. Chairman and ceo Tim Belk noted that SG&A costs were reduced, as were inventory levels. "We continue to maintain a strong balance sheet that will enable the company to weather the downturn and move forward with our key strategic initiatives," he said.

Sales of $817.3 million were down 9.6% from $904.5 million in the year-ago period, as comps fell 8.7%.

Belk has introduced its exclusive, private label Lorena Garcia brand in housewares and bedding products. The company also launched Pro Tour golf apparel for men during the quarter.

Garcia is a chef who has appeared on a range of television programs including the current "Sazón con Lorena Garcia" on Utilisima, as well as "El Arte del Buen Gusto" and "Big Chef, Little Chef."

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