CEO Profile: William T. Dillard II of Dillard's Inc.

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Mar. 26, 2012 12:00 am  

Just a few years ago, Dillard’s Inc. CEO William Dillard II was being blamed for ruining the Little Rock retail chain that his father built. Now he’s being praised for saving it.

The outlook for the retailer looked grim in November 2008, when its stock price dropped to $2.50 at one point during the month.

Since then, though, the company’s stock price has soared. It briefly exceeded $64 a share on March 12, stratosphere the company hasn’t visited in decades.

One of the key areas in which Dillard’s saw a turnaround was its same-store sales, a key comparison of sales at stores open at least a year. Between August 2008 and January 2010, Dillard’s had 18 straight months of same-store sales declines.

But since 2010, Dillard’s same-store sales have improved. For the fiscal year that ended Jan. 28, Dillard’s same-store sales were up 4 percent.

Dillard’s management has done a “tremendous job” managing the company, Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a retail consulting and investment banking firm in New York, told Arkansas Business in November. “I think they improved in every area.”


Early Years

The late William Dillard founded the company in 1938 in Nashville (Howard County). William Dillard II, who is now 67, started working part time for the retailer while he was still in school.

He was appointed to the board of directors in 1967 and has been involved in almost every aspect of Dillard’s operation.

In 1977, Dillard became president and chief operating officer, positions he held until 1998, when he was promoted to chief executive officer. Sales peaked at $8.7 billion the next year and began a long downward slide.

After his father died in 2002, William Dillard II became the chairman of the board of directors. He also is on the board of directors of Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock and Barnes & Noble Inc. of New York.



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