Mall Giant Hit by Virus

Mall Giant Hit by Virus
One of the entrances to Dillard's split location at Park Plaza Mall in Little Rock. (Stephanie Dunn)

The coronavirus pandemic is kicking Dillard’s Inc. while it’s down, says Texas A&M University Professor Venkatesh Shankar.

While discussing the boom in delivery and customer pickup options, the retail researcher told Whispers that the department store chain was particularly ill-prepared for an abrupt turn away from brick-and-mortar service.

The Little Rock company was already “behind the curve” in e-commerce, “and right now they must be feeling the pinch,” Shankar said, noting that mall-based chains like Dillard’s and Macy’s face a tough transition. Dillard’s 261 stores and 28 clearance centers cover nearly 50 million SF in 29 states, and about 200 locations have been closed since late March.

“Dillard tried to differentiate itself by being a brick-and-mortar destination, but now that possibility doesn’t exist,” Shankar said. “For them, this is not very good news.”

On Thursday, retail analysts with Wedbush Securities of Los Angeles waved red flags over Dillard’s “weak fourth quarter exacerbated in a wildly meaningful way amid COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders across the country.”

Analysts Jen Redding, Paul Hao and Gene Gallagher wrote that despite unprecedented markdown rates and a drop in average prices, “inventories continue to increase at historical levels.”