The Chapelboro community is a demographic dream: lots of highly educated people, many of them with disposal income.  Let’s not forget those shopping students either.  Why then, I wondered, is our only department store so dowdy?  

I had a few conversations about this back when there was discussion about the Chapel Hill Public Library moving into the Dillard’s spot in University Mall.  That went away and so did the conversations.  

Many months later I heard a local business owner express frustration with having to drive to Southpoint to get to a nice department store.  Her frustration reminded me of my own dissatisfaction with our Dillard’s.  I have seen other Dillard’s stores and many are quite pleasant.  I’m not suggesting they’re as lovely as the Botanical Gardens, mind you, but Dillard’s clearly does know how to run a store that can offer a positive shopping experience.  

Now I know the benefit of buying from our local shops and I try but there are times a department store has just what’s needed and I’m glad we have one.  I have to believe spending money in my home town is more beneficial than spending it elsewhere.  

I called Dillard’s corporate headquarters in Arkansas and spoke with Director of Investor Relations Julie Bull, who also handles general media calls.  I must give her credit as she kept a good humor while I laid out my aversion to our local Dillard’s.  I listed the crammed and crowded sales floor, the lack of a good selection and even the poor lighting.  I talked about the tables piled high, the jammed circular racks and the small range of choices therein. 

She looked at what she could easily find out about the store, mentioned it was small and told me she’d talk to some people in Dillard’s real estate department and get back to me.  When we did speak again, several days later, Bull had still not heard back from her colleagues regarding the Chapel Hill store.  I explained that it was beyond time for me to post this column and she said she’d continue to follow up and would get back to me when she’d received more information.  I promise it will appear in a future $avvy $pender column when she does. 

This led me to someone else who may have some insight: University Mall General Manager Peter de Leon.  De Leon told me he knows the local store is among the smallest in the Dillard’s chain and resources may not be there for one that small.  Overall, he said, “We’d like to continue the relationship and we’d like them to do well”.

So would I and that’s why I called the corporate office in the first place.  If the store doesn’t do well, we may lose our only department store.  I say keeping it healthy means cleaning it up, dressing it up and adding some style!

Agree?  Disagree?  Leave your comment below or write to me at