Top 9 Department Stores: See Where They Ranked

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Top 9 Department Stores: See Where They Ranked

08/11/2014
The department store segment continues to evolve through acquisitions and shopper's increased demand for off-price merchandise. Apparel Magazine's annual ranking of the top department stores uncover that many of the top brands are still struggling to recover from the harsh winter weather's effect on sales.

The only change to the ranking from last year's edition was the swapping of Macy's and Kohl's. Macy's took the top spot while Kohl's found itself in third place this time around.

The entire department store ranking can be found here. An abridged version of the results follows.

#1 Macy’s
Macy's expanded store fulfillment to 500 locations, and completed the rollout of shipping capability this spring to all of its approximately 650 full-line Macy’s stores. The department store chain successfully tested buy online, pickup in-store in 10 locations in the Washington, DC, market in fall 2013 and has now rolled it out to all full-line stores. The retailer is putting tablets and other handhelds into the hands of its associates to assist customers, piloting kiosks to expand its assortment on the sales floor, using RFID to count item-level inventories more precisely and energizing stores with large-format digital displays.

#2 Dillard’s
The department store retailer ended the year with comp-store sales up 1%, for a fourth consecutive year of positive comp-store sales, but a lower increase than expected, which led to heavier markdowns and a lower profitability than last year’s. Dillard’s closed six locations during fiscal year 2013, ending the year with 278 locations and 18 clearance centers, spanning 29 states, and an online store at dillards.com.

#3 Kohl’s
Kohl’s opened 12 new stores in 2013, remodeled 30, and with new openings and closures, expects a net increase of five stores this year, and 35 remodels. The company completed an e-commerce re-platform designed to support omnichannel initiatives including an improved checkout experience and higher traffic — e-commerce sales totaled $1.7 billion for the year and have almost doubled since 2011.

#4 Belk
Comp-store sales were up 2.9% on top of 6.3% the prior year, and e-commerce sales were up 42.5% over the prior year to $193 million, and were the fastest growing part of the business, also driving additional traffic to stores. Online sales now represent 5% of business and Belk expects that to grow to more than 10%, as it optimizes its website for desktop  and mobile; expands drop-ship capabilities; and expands its Item locator program which enables customers in stores to order merchandise not available in a particular location.

#5 Neiman Marcus
Neiman saw its profitability edge up 30 basis points for the year as it strived to perfect its omnichannel “anytime, anywhere, any device” strategy by merging its store and online merchandising and planning teams into a single group, and also by implementing a suite of Oracle Retail solutions for better merchandise planning and analytics. Neiman’s operates 41 full-line stores, two Bergdorf Goodman stores, 36 off-price, smaller format Last Call stores and six CUSP stores, which cater to a younger customer focused on contemporary fashion.

#6 Burlington
A big year for the off-price retailer, which issued an IPO in October while pushing forward with growth strategies in driving comp-store sales (up 4.7%), expanding its store base (by 21 new stores) and increasing operating margins. Burlington also ended the year with leaner inventory, down 9.2%, as it worked to expand its brands (it ended the year with 4,500+) and styles while also better localizing its merchandise by tailoring assortments across brands, lifestyles, sizes and climate. 

#7 Bon-Ton Stores
Comp-store sales were down 4.2%, and the company is still not in the black, but it edged closer this year. The chain's long-term success strategy includes: starting its new localizing strategy; launching the first phases of its merchant reporting system; improving inventory management via more clearance centers; growing ecommerce with better assortments; refinancing debt; and increasing its private-label credit card sales.

#8 Sears
Sears fell deeper into the red than it was last year — it lost $1.4 billion after losing $930 million last year — but continued to work to simplify and focus the company, most recently by spinning off Lands’ End, which it bought in 2002 for $1.9 billion, for $500 million. The company owns 700 of its 2,000 stores, and is seeking opportunities to sell, lease or redevelop them via in-store shops. In 2013, Sears generated $2 billion in liquidity through $1 billion in proceeds from real estate and $1 billion in a five-year term loan, and also reduced peak inventory by $620 million.

#9 J.C. Penney
The department store continued to undo the changes made by former CEO Ron Johnson — even reverting back to its old logo and full company name (vs. just JCP) and bringing back promotions — as it worked to win back customers and attract new ones. The retailer continued deeper into the red but is progressing through its turnaround strategy, working to stabilize relationships with key suppliers and rebuild everything from the management team to merchandising and marketing.