William Dillard was born in Mineral Springs, AR. Dillard graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in Business Administration. He later went on to earn his Masters degree in Business Administration from Columbia University in 1937.
After working for Sears Roebuck & Co in Tulsa, OK for a short nine months, inspired by his father’s proprietorship in a country store, William Dillard returned to Arkansas where he followed his original dream and opened his first store in Nashville, AR.
Dillard served in the US Navy during World War II. After his return, he earned enough money to open a department store in Texarkana. He soon sold the original Nashville store and opened two others in Tyler and Magnolia, TX. This was the beginning of the ever increasing growth that has seen Dillard’s Inc. become the third largest chain of upscale department stores.
As acting chairman of Dillard’s Inc until he was 80 years old, Mr. Dillard saw his chain of almost 350 stores nationwide grow from the sales in his first store of $42,000 with only $3,000 in profit in 1938 to $8.7 billion the year before he died. Part of this success can be attributed to Dillard’s ability to see the shift in the consumer trend towards indoor shopping malls.
In 1989, Fortune magazine described the chain as “a quiet superstar…family run, highly computerized, extremely competitive and great for investors.”
Over the years, acquisitions by Dillard’s inc have included Brown-Dunkin of Tulsa, Pfeifer’s and Blass Co. both of Arkansas.
William Dillard has been described as a man of tremendous vision in terms of his success in retail business, and a man of honesty, loyalty and integrity.