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Belk’s Kathryn Bufano Discusses How Charity Begins Near Home

Kathryn Bufano, president and chief merchandising officer of Belk, Inc. has been cited  by the Housewares Charity Foundation along with Keith Jaffee of O2 Cool for supporting critical organizations in the fight against maladies including cancer and heart disease, as well as promoting educational initiatives. Bufano has received the organization’s Lifetime Humanitarian Award and Jaffee the Humanitarian of the Year Award at the 16th Annual Housewares Charity Foundation Gala at the Hilton Chicago. The annual event runs as part of the International Home + Housewares Show. Bufano told HomeWorld Business that, although she enthusiastically supports the retailer’s charitable efforts, beneficence is part of Belk’s corporate culture.

Kathryn Bufano: Our company is very committed to charity involvement. We gave $3 million to Susan  G. Komen, for example.  And we’re involved in community initiatives.

HWB: Nationally, Belk is also involved with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the American Heart Association. Yet, a lot of the company’s charity work is more grassroots. How do you apply your charitable philosophy on the local side?

KB: We have  the BelkGives on the Go Mobile Mammography Center. It’s basically a bus that goes to outlying markets giving mammograms at store locations.

HWB: How else does Belk bring its charity campaign down into communities?

KB: The Duke University Cancer Center has the Belk Boutique. It gives makeovers and items like scarves to patients going through chemotherapy. Another prong in our program is education, and we raise money for the arts. There is big value for Belk to be involved in the community.

HWB: Why is Belk so focused on community involvement?

KB: Belk is a family-owned company that has been around, now, for 125 years. On Charity Day at our stores,  local charity can come in and sell tickets for their programs. This is grassroots,  not dictated by Charlotte, but every individual store. We give to local charities. We make sure we connect with customers. We’re regional, family-owned, and we make sure our customers understand we’re committed to being in small towns and committed to communities.

HWB: Charity is one part of Belk’s local commitment. What are some ways merchandise reflects Belk’s regional and community affiliations?

KB: Color. Color in appliances. Color in top of bed. Our customer loves color and pattern. Also, with our southern orientation, we take a leadership position in china. We also do a lot with collegiate. Even collegiate china.