VIBE #Retail #New York

If you live in Europe, you may have never heard of Nordstrom. But for Americans, especially New Yorkers, last Thursday marked a turning point in the future of department stores as the Seattle-based retailer opened a massive flagship store in Manhattan. It comes at a challenging time since retail is struggling with foot traffic, conversion, and high rent. As a result, long-time players (Barneys, Henri Bendel, Lord & Taylor) had to close locations in the city. It is hard to know how Nordstrom will do in a market it estimates at $700 million, and we would certainly love to see it succeed. After visiting on opening day, we identified at least five reasons why Nordstrom could be relevant to the demanding New York crowd.

1/ Nordstrom knows that busy New Yorkers are all about services and convenience. As it happens, that is part of Nordstrom’s DNA!

The 118-year-old retail chain has built a strong reputation for going above and beyond when it comes to customer service, and the NYC flagship store is no exception. Employees are genuinely dedicated to helping customers and providing the best experience. Besides the fact that you will likely be able to return an item with no receipt (yes, that is how much Nordstrom loves its customers), the location has plenty to offer under the « Service Bar » sign. You will find order pick-up, same-day delivery, shoe/handbag repair, concierge, gift wrapping, etc… Personalization is available on every level from on-site tailoring to stylist services (e.g., the Trunk Club) and customization of items.

Feel good effect: by covering all their needs under one roof, Nordstrom makes it easy for active New Yorkers. Customers can ask any sales associate for assistance without feeling they are interrupting something or worse bothering. This attitude is a sign of genuine dedication to customer satisfaction and influential company culture, obviously what physical retail desperately needs these days.

2/ Bringing physical and digital together to enhance the shopping experience.

The opening of the flagship store is part of a broader distribution network strategy. Nordstrom Rack (off-price), Nordstrom Local (only services, no inventory), and the men’s store across the street were the first components. The intended effect is for customers to be able to connect and interact with Nordstrom through both online and offline channels according to their preferences. It is a highly strategic process and competitive advantage considering New York is Nordstrom’s largest market for online sales.

Feel good effect: customers are spending more and more time on their mobile device but still want to touch and feel the products. By being innovative, Nordstrom offers New Yorkers a unique way of shopping without altering their lifestyle.

3/ Creating the need and giving people a reason to visit.

Nordstrom designed the store with the New York customer in mind: a Beauty Haven, a Burberry shop-in-shop, an Instagram-worthy Nordstrom x Nike red velvet area, a Nordstrom Everyone pop in, hip brands like Reformation, a Shoe bar (and we mean a real bar right in the middle of the shoe department), 7 restaurants, drinks orders from the dressing rooms, etc… Thanks to a highly-curated selection of trendy brands, adjustable displays, art installations, rotating brand collaborations, food and drinks, Nordstrom wants to keep the store fresh and surprise New Yorkers with novelty and uniqueness. The intention is for people to hang out, and should like it so much they are eager to come back soon and regularly.

Feel good effect: as Dawn Clark, senior Vice President of store design explained in Business of Fashion. « It’s an open canvas where we can move things around. You don’t want it to be boring. You want to have a sense of excitement and energy. »

Read his full interview

4/ Bringing a sense of belonging to every visitor.

Although Nordstrom offers a very curated selection, the retailer wants all customers to feel welcome and appreciated. Inspired by our own Parisian concept store Colette (closed since), buyers chose to mix designer and mainstream labels, online brands and luxury items, with all products receiving the same level of interest. The store shows a vast assortment of sizes and a variety of price points wider than competitors. What we believe Nordstrom is good at is leading by example when it comes to diversity. Everyone is invited to experience what the store has to offer. Whatever your age, culture, style, or buying power, sales associates will help you the same way. And that is because Nordstrom’s sales team is one of the most diverse and inclusive we have ever met.

Feel good effect: « An open mind is the best look » is the great tagline of Nordstrom’s latest NYC campaign. It summarizes well the idea that every customer should feel good no matter who they are and what they can afford.

5/ Nordstrom spent two decades searching for the perfect location in a highly-competitive and expensive market.

Nordstrom couldn’t just open a regular store in the city: it had to be a massive 320,000-square-foot, seven-story, modern, bright, and airy flagship store. As one of America’s largest department stores, the retailer had to make its presence known to New Yorkers and millions of tourists pouring into the Big Apple every year. The location on 57th Street and Broadway is right south of Central Park and opposite of the traditional luxury department stores sitting on the East Side (Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Bloomingdale’s, Barneys). Nordstrom joined NYC’s first-ever Neiman Marcus (in Hudson Yards) in creating a new must-see shopping destination on the West Side of Manhattan.

Feel good effect: since we are all hearing about the retail apocalypse, choosing that location is a smart move. New Yorkers will perceive the retail chain as being bold, different and innovative. Most of all, it will not be associated with struggling traditional department stores on the East Side of the city. As for the potential 10 million unique visitors a year in Central Park, Nordstrom hopes the store will be part of the itinerary, and visitors will spread the word back home. Because everybody wants to know what is trending in New York!