Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Dillard's Decline

In Nebraska, two major department stores have battled for market share. As of last month, there is a clear victor.

Dillard’s announcement in July that it would close 13 stores—one of which is in Crossroads Mall in Omaha—came as no surprise to me. Though I shop in Lincoln, not Omaha, I have witnessed the demise of what was once a great department store chain.

And I have watched its chief competitor—Von Maur—continue its rise in the state.

In the Lincoln Dillard’s, the department I have long referred to as the “club house” (a throw-back term to the old days, when Dillard’s formally labeled its designer-wear section as the club house) has shrunk its offerings to a sad selection of barely designer-wear. In place of Dana Buchman and Ellen Tracy apparel is the Reba line. Hardly comparable. While Austin Reed suits are still displayed, the pickings are meager. Nygard, however, reigns, eating up a huge display area. (For those of you who don’t know Nygard’s Nebraska selection, think crepe-y suits with old-lady floral blouses.)

The latest change to the Dillard’s merchandise selection impacted the shoe department. Donald Pliner was discontinued. Word from the sales staff is that Cole Haan will be next, supplanted by lower-end shoe designers like Steve Madden and Nine West.

Today I read that Dillard’s 2Q loss was $38.3 million, widening from a $25.2 million loss in the year-ago quarter. Same-store sales dropped 4%. And the Omaha store has now closed.

No shocker. I’ve been a loyal Dillard’s shopper for 30 years. I now patronize Von Maur, driving about 10 miles out of my way to do so. My latest purchase was a $250 pair of Donald Pliner shoes.

By Katherine Field

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