Dillard's is an American department store chain with approximately 330 stores in 29 states and headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. Currenty, the largest number of stores are located in Florida with 42 and Texas with 58, but it also has stores in 27 more states.
Dillard's is the outgrowth of a department store founded in 1938 by William T. Dillard; its corporate headquarters remain located at the eastern edge of Little Rock's Riverdale area, and many of its executives and directors are members of the Dillard family. The family still controls the company through its ownership of Class B Common Stock; the Class A common stock is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Dillard sold the original five and dime store in Nashville, Arkansas, to develop a department store in Texarkana, Arkansas, initially as the minority partner in Wooten & Dillard. In 1956, Dillard led an investment group that acquired the Mayer & Schmidt store in Tyler, Texas. This store eventually took on the name "Dillard's Mayer & Schmidt" until 1974, when it was replaced with a mall-based location south of downtown Tyler.
In 1960, Dillard acquired and turned around the failing Brown-Duncan store in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The success of this turnaround was followed in late 1963 by acquiring the Joseph Pfeifer store in Little Rock, Arkansas, and in early 1964 acquiring the other main store in Little Rock, Gus Blass Co. Dillard used this as an opportunity to relocate his headquarters to Little Rock. In 1969, Dillard and his investors took Dillard Department Stores, Inc., public on the American Stock Exchange.
Thereafter, the chain expanded rapidly as an anchor in suburban shopping malls, and took advantage of market conditions to acquire smaller chains as well as its ability to turn around locations that other companies could not operate profitably.
Expansion of the Dillard's chain increased rapidly during the 1970s, mainly through expanding into new malls being built in smaller cities in Texas. In 1971 five Texas units were acquired from Fedway, a division of Federated Department Stores (the stores were rebadged as Dillard's in 1972). In 1974 five Leonard's stores were acquired in Fort Worth, Texas, as well as a commitment to open a new downtown Fort Worth store at the Tandy Center (site of the original Leonard's). Also in 1974, the former Brown-Dunkin, Blass, Pfeifer and Mayer & Schmidt stores were fully renamed Dillard's.
The 1980s brought the purchase of many local chains. In 1982, Dillard's leased three units of the defunct Lowenstein's chain in Memphis, Tennessee. In early 1984, Dillard’s acquired 12 Stix, Baer & Fuller stores in St. Louis and Kansas City from Associated Dry Goods Corp., while in fall 1984 two department store divisions were purchased from Dayton-Hudson Corporation: Diamond's and John A. Brown, with locations in Arizona, Nevada and Oklahoma. Twelve stores in Kansas and Missouri belonging to R. H. Macy & Co.'s Midwest Division, which was later dissolved in 2006, were acquired in early 1986, while the three-unit Hemphill-Wells company in West Texas was purchased in the summer. The stores at Sunset Mall in San Angelo and South Plains Mall in Lubbock were both converted, while the third in downtown Lubbock was closed.
In 1987, Dillard's purchased 26 of Joske's 27 stores in Texas and Arizona as well as the four unit Cain-Sloan chain in Nashville, Tennessee, from Allied Stores Corp. This deal gave Dillard's two major anchor locations at several malls in Texas and Arizona with many of the second locations being converted to a separate, expanded home and men's stores, a format that Dillard's utilized greatly, both to grow its store size cost effectively and to prevent competitors from gaining valuable real estate. Additionally the Joske's acquisition gave Dillard's entry into the Houston market.
Dillard's in 1988 acquired the former Selber Bros. clothing department store chain, founded in 1907 in Shreveport, Louisiana, which also had a few locations in Texas.
In 1988, Dillard's purchased the three-unit Miller & Paine chain in Lincoln, Nebraska, as well as more significantly, a half-interest and operational control of The Higbee Co., based in Cleveland, Ohio, with partner Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. D. H. Holmes Co., Ltd., of New Orleans, was purchased in 1989, bringing 18 units primarily in Louisiana, as well two former Diamond's units in Tucson, Arizona.
The Ivey's chain of 23 stores in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina was acquired from BATUS in 1990. This was followed by the acquisition of eight Florida Gulf Coast stores from Maison Blanche Co. in 1991 (which had acquired them as Robinsons of Florida only a few years before). In 1992, the remaining interest in the Higbee's stores were acquired, as well as five Ohio stores from Horne's (as part of a legal settlement, Dillard's having canceled a 1988 deal to acquire the chain). Also in 1992, three stores from the Hess's chain liquidation (five other former Hess's were acquired in 1994), two E.M. Scarbrough's locations in Austin, Texas, two former Thalhimer's in South Carolina and Tennessee, a former Lord & Taylor store in Memphis, Tennessee and three former Belk-Lindsey stores in Florida were acquired by Dillard's. Except for two Belk of Columbia stores acquired in 1995, acquisitions were eschewed for several years until in early 1997 when ten buildings in Florida were acquired from Mervyn's, including stores at Cutler Ridge Mall and Miami International Mall in Miami-Dade County, Coral Square, Broward Mall, Pembroke Lakes Mall, and Pompano Fashion Square in Broward County and Boynton Beach Mall in Palm Beach County. As this happened, Dillard's also said that they would operate two stores at Pembroke Lakes Mall and Boynton Beach Mall. At the same time, seven southern Virginia stores were purchased from Proffitt's (which had acquired them from Hess's in 1993), and the three suburban Macy's stores in Houston were absorbed.
The deal-making culminated with the purchase of Mercantile Stores Co., Inc., in 1998. The purchase of this Fairfield, Ohio-based department store company brought several chains, including Bacon's, Castner Knott, de Lendrecie's, Gayfers, Glass Block, Hennessy's, J.B. White, Joslins, Lion Store, Maison Blanche, McAlpin's, Root's and The Jones Store. Dillard's sold 26 stores of the former Mercantile Stores to May Department Stores Co. and Saks Incorporated and traded an additional seven stores to Belk for nine of theirs in southern Virginia and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Overall this deal enabled Dillard's to enhance its position in several markets in the South, Midwest and Mountain states.
Also in 1998, the chain entered California, opening its first store in a former Weinstock's at Weberstown Mall in Stockton, California. In 1999, Dillard's opened stores at Mall of Georgia and Arbor Place Mall near Atlanta, Georgia.
After the acquisition of Mercantile, Dillard's ceased expanding through acquisitions, although eight locations of the defunct Montgomery Ward in the Midwest, and four locations from ZCMI in Utah and Idaho were acquired in 2001, when stores opened at Chandler Fashion Center in Chandler, Arizona, The Mall at Stonecrest in Lithonia, Georgia, The Mall at Wellington Green in Wellington, Florida , International Plaza and Bay Street in Tampa, Florida, and The Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, Texas.
In 2004, Dillard's store credit card operation, operated as Dillard's National Bank, was sold to GE Money Bank. Customers can now be issued Dillard's/American Express cards as well the traditional Dillard's store charge. These cards can be used at any store that accepts the American Express brand.
In 2005, Dillard's opened stores at Perimeter Mall and Atlantic Station in Atlanta, Georgia as well as St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 2008, Dillard's closed their travel agency, Dillard's Travel, alongside all in-store locations due to economic conditions. Dillard's Travel previously operated in 43 of the 318 stores.
The chain continues to expand and has recently added stores in non-traditional mall shopping centers. Currently, the largest Dillard's store at 365,000 square feet (33,000 m²) is located at Scottsdale Fashion Square, an enclosed super-regional mall in Scottsdale, Arizona. Within the Dallas area, the chain has two flagship stores with a 299,000-square-foot (27,800 m) store at the Northpark Center in Dallas and a 310,000-square-foot (29,000 m) store at the North East Mall in Hurst. Its flagship store in the East Coast region, at 260,000 square feet (24,000 m), is located in the MacArthur Center in downtown Norfolk, Virginia. The home store for the chain is in Little Rock; the divided store is located in the trend-conscious Park Plaza Mall, one of the city's oldest continuously operating shopping centers in its midtown section.