The Top 10 Arkansas Business Stories of 2012: Making History

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 12:00 am  

Its stock price opened at $45.81 on Jan. 3, 2012, and reached an all-time high of $89.42 during the day on Nov. 29. It closed on Dec. 19 at $83.75, an increase of 82.8 percent since the beginning of the year. As a comparison, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose only 12.5 percent during that period, and the S&P’s 500 Department Stores Index as reported by noted a 1.4 percent uptick.

In 2012, Dillard’s made moves to expand its online reach by investing $4 million in the e-ecommerce company Acumen Brands of Fayetteville. Dillard’s also opened in September a 852,000-SF Internet fulfillment center in Maumelle to support the growth of its online sales, which Dillard’s doesn’t separate in its filings. Dillard’s also operates a 285,000-SF center in Nashville, Tenn.

In the fall, Dillard’s announced it was building three stores. The stores won’t open until the fall of 2014, but they will be the first new stores for Dillard’s since early 2010.

“We’re just seeing more opportunities for construction than we have in the past couple of years,” said Dillard’s spokeswoman Julie Bull.

Dillard’s sales soared for the 39-week period that ended Oct. 27. Same-store sales, a key metric for retail analysts because they measure sales at stores open at least a year, were up 4 percent during that period. Net sales for the three quarters that ended Oct. 27 were $4.49 billion, up 4 percent from the same period in 2011. The chain’s net income for the first three fiscal quarters dropped to $174.5 million, down from $322.4 million a year earlier — a figure that was plumped up by one-time items that included the sale of two former retail locations and a tax benefit.

Still, Dillard’s announced in November that it would pay a one-time cash dividend of $5 per share before the end of 2012, which would allow investors to avoid higher taxes if “fiscal cliff” tax hikes go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. The fiscal cliff includes automatic tax increases and cuts in government spending.

Dillard’s $5 dividend was the highest in the company’s history. With 47.25 million shares outstanding as of Nov. 24, that comes to $236.25 million for shareholders.

The special dividend will amount to more than $35 million for members of the Dillard family, who own more than 7 million shares of the company.

William Dillard II, the CEO of Dillard’s, told investors at the annual shareholders’ meeting in May that the company was in “good shape.”

“We have done a good job in the last 18 months,” he said.

8. Real Estate Fallout Continues

The procession of real estate transactions driven by financial travails remained in motion during 2012 — four years after the bubble burst. In many cases, a lender’s bad loan was transformed into someone else’s bargain.



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