by Karen Alberg Grossman

BEALLS STORE FRONTFor our next Retailer of the Year feature to run in our April 2016 issue, MR magazine (with input from menswear manufacturers) will honor a well-respected regional family-owned department store. Bealls is exceptional in many ways, not the least of which is a full century in business that they’ve been celebrating in 2015. With more than 500 stores in the Southeast, generating more than $1 billion in sales, Bealls continues to prove that localized assortments, exceptional service and the ability to quickly react to changing market conditions can create the kind of consumer loyalty envied by big national chains.

Here, we sit down with Bealls’ Menswear VP/GMM Matt Beall to gain a few insights into this remarkable retail operation. In our April ’16 issue, you’ll meet the whole team and learn how they do it.

Q: What is the secret for surviving 100 years against huge national chains?

A: We have benefited from Florida’s growth over the past 100 years by listening to what our customer has told us she wants in a shopping experience. Beall’s has a very loyal customer base and we feel like we understand the markets that we serve. Because of this and because we are relatively small, we have the ability to localize our assortments. Another advantage is that we make decisions that will be beneficial for the long term as opposed to looking towards near-term or quarterly results. Our family shareholders are a special group of people who have a lot of pride in our business and want to see it have success for another hundred years.

Q: How has your business changed in the past few years?

A: Our business has never been this complex and it will never be this simple again. It has really changed tremendously over the last decade as things have gone more and more digital. From a competition standpoint, brick and mortar is clearly not growing. In order to continue to be a viable we have to invest heavily in our website, our digital shopping experience, and our private brands like Reel Legends and Coral Bay.

Q: According to financial reports from publicly traded retailers, business is pretty tough at the moment. How are you doing this year and how are you projecting holiday sales?

A: We actually had a very strong Spring and Back to School was fair. I’m going to sound like a retailer, but weather has taken a toll on business in October and November. I was told that November was the hottest November in recorded history for Florida. Certainly that doesn’t get people into the Christmas spirit.

Q: What big picture changes are you planning over the next five years?

A: I don’t foresee any major changes to our business that aren’t currently already underway. That said, we reserve the right to react to an ever-changing business environment.

Q: As a family member of a family organization, what do you worry about most?

A: I worry about a lot of things. What I don’t worry about is this company. We have a very strong team that is invested wholeheartedly in our organization and we can compete with anyone.

Q: What are you most proud of?

A: I am most proud of being able to provide jobs to our 12,000 employees and the fact that we have been able to remain family owned for 100 years. My kids are generation five. I’m proud of the fact that we are a unique family in America in the sense that we have been able to beat the odds and make it to 100 years!