Barington Capital Group said it represents investors owning more than 3.2% of Dillard's shares. It said it is seeking meetings with management to discuss merchandising, inventory management, cost controls and measures to "unlock" value in the company's real estate portfolio.
The New York-based firm said it requested talks after being unable to reach Chief Executive William Dillard by phone.
Julie Bull, a Dillard's spokeswoman, was out of the office and unavailable for immediate comment, a company representative said.
Dillard's shares reached a nearly nine-year high of $40.56 on May 21 but through Wednesday had fallen 16.3% from that level amid disappointing profits and sales.
The Little Rock, Ark.-based retailer has struggled amid competition from discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores
First-quarter profit fell 30% and May same-store sales dropped 2%. Dillard's last month said it operated 328 stores in 29 U.S. states. The market value of Dillard's was about $2.73 billion on Wednesday.
Dillard's shares were up $2.92, or 8.6%, to $36.85 on the New York Stock Exchange after rising to $37.96 in early Thursday trading. Through Wednesday, the shares were up 7.8% in the last year, lagging a 15.8% gain in the Standard & Poor's Retailing Index.
Barington said it has substantial experience in improving shareholder value at other retail, apparel and footwear companies. It said these include Maxwell Shoe, Nautica, Payless ShoeSource