Nordstrom is an American upscale fashion retailer, founded by John W. Nordstrom and Carl F. Wallin and headquartered in Seattle. The company began as a shoe retailer and has since expanded its inventory to include clothing, accessory, handbags, jewelry, cosmetics, and fragrances. Select Nordstrom stores also have wedding and home furnishing departments. There are 310 stores operating in 38 states and Canada, which includes 119 full-line stores and 183 Nordstrom Racks, two Jeffrey boutiques and one clearance store.
In addition, Nordstrom operates one clearance store, along with two Jeffrey boutiques. Nordstrom, Inc.’s common stock is publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol JWN. The company announced plans to open six stores in Canada beginning in 2014, as well as its first namesake in New York City in 2018. Nationally, Nordstrom competes with luxury retailers Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as middle class retailers such as Macy’s, Von Maur, Dillard’s and Belk. Of its luxury retail competitors, Nordstrom has both the largest number of store locations and the largest geographic footprint, and its stores anchor many upscale malls throughout the United States.
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In 1887, at the age of 16, like many other Swedes in the late 19th century, John W. Nordstrom immigrated to the United States in search of opportunity. He was born in the village of Alvik Nedar Luleå in Northern Sweden. His name at birth was “Johan Nordström” which he later anglicized to John Nordstrom. After landing in New York, he first worked in Michigan. After working a series of menial jobs as he moved across the country, he saved enough money to purchase a 20-acre (81,000 m2) potato farm in Arlington, Washington, close to Seattle. In 1897, he joined the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada’s Yukon Territory, leaving Seattle with countless others. After two years of prospecting and doing whatever it took to continue, he finally struck gold, but sold his disputed claim for $13,000. Returning to Seattle with his newfound wealth, he married Hilda Carlson and looked for a business venture, finally settling on a shoe store that opened in 1901, called Wallin & Nordstrom. Carl F. Wallin, the co-founder of the store, was the owner of the adjacent shoe repair shop. John and Hilda had five children, three of whom followed him into the family business, Everett W.(1903), Elmer J. (1904) and Lloyd N. Nordstrom. By the time Wallin & Nordstrom opened their second store in Seattle in 1923, Elmer who recently graduated from the University of Washington had already had enough hands-on experience to be put in charge of its opening.
In 1928, John W. Nordstrom retired and sold his shares to two of his sons, Everett and Elmer. In 1929, Wallin also retired and sold his shares to them. The 1930 grand opening of the remodeled Second Avenue store marked the change of name to Nordstrom. Lloyd Nordstrom subsequently joined the company in 1933, and the three brothers ran the business together for almost forty years.
By 1958, Nordstrom had expanded to eight stores in two states but still only sold shoes. Their expansion was based on customer service, deep product offerings and full size ranges. Apparel came with its purchase of Best Apparel of Seattle in 1963. The company’s name was changed to Nordstrom Absolute Best in 1969.
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By 1968, the second generation debated selling the company as Everett neared retirement. Instead, they were convinced by the third generation Nordstroms—Bruce A. (Everett’s son), James F. and John N. (Elmer’s two sons), together with John A. (Jack) MacMillan (married to Lloyd’s daughter) — to take the company public instead, and allow the cousins to take over the business. In 1971, the company was taken public on NASDAQ under the ticker NOBE (Nordstrom Best). In 1973, “Best” was dropped from the company’s name, and the store assumed its current name of Nordstrom. It was moved to the New York Stock Exchange in 1999 under the ticker symbol JWN after John W. Nordstrom, its founder.
By 1975, Nordstrom expanded into Alaska (the only time by acquisition) by purchasing Northern Commercial Company and opened its first Nordstrom Rack clearance store in Seattle. A strong northwest regional retailer with sales already approaching $250 million (making it the third-largest specialty retailer in the U.S.), it opened its first Southern California store at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa in 1978. By the early 1990s, it had opened 26 stores plus Racks in California. Subsequent expansion relied on creating a strongly decentralized regional structure, beginning with the Northeast (Tysons Corner Center, 1988), Midwest (Oakbrook Center, 1991), Southeast (Atlanta, 1998), and Southwest (Dallas, 1996) to which the California stores were added. In a new region, the initial store was used as a base for training and recruitment for subsequent expansion, and was usually backed by its own distribution center. From 1978 to 1995, Nordstrom opened a total of 46 full-line department stores.
In 1976, Nordstrom opened a series of stores called Place Two to sell a more limited selection of apparel in smaller markets. By 1983, there were ten Place Two stores, but the cost of upgrading the smaller stores, especially from a systems perspective, outweighed the benefit, and the division was discontinued. The company also expanded into direct sales in 1993, beginning with a catalog division led by John N.’s son Dan that was followed by an e-commerce business. Currently, it has distribution centers in Ontario, California; Newark, California; Portland, Oregon; Dubuque, Iowa; Upper Marlboro, Maryland; and Gainesville, Florida.
Nordstrom FSB, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nordstrom, Inc., is a federally chartered savings bank doing business as Nordstrom Bank. It was formed in 1991 in Scottsdale, Arizona, with its customer contact center in Centennial, Colorado. Nordstrom FSB was formerly known as Nordstrom National Credit Bank and changed its name to Nordstrom FSB in March 2000. The bank offers various banking and credit products, such as Nordstrom Signature VISA, Nordstrom retail credit and debit cards, interest-bearing checking accounts, check cards, and certificates of deposits. It offers Nordstrom customers cards under Nordstrom Rewards – its customer loyalty program – where customers earn points when making purchases with the card at Nordstrom and other retailers. Other rewards include Nordstrom Notes which are redeemed or used like cash in stores for new purchases and the Nordstrom Signature VISA card also has an optional travel/leisure rewards feature. The Nordstrom Rewards program features 4 levels of status depending on annual spending and offers various promotional times throughout the year to earn double, triple and even ten-times points.
Beginning in 1995, the fourth generation of brothers and cousins served as co-presidents for a time. After John Whitacre served as the first non-Nordstrom CEO in 1997, in 2001 the family reasserted its control, with the sons of Bruce A. (Blake, Erik and Peter) assuming senior roles in the company which they continue to hold.
In 1998, Nordstrom replaced its downtown Seattle store with a new flagship location in the former Frederick & Nelson building across the street. At 383,000 square feet (35,600 m2), the downtown Seattle location is the chain’s largest store. By contrast, the smallest Nordstrom store (as of September 2008) opened in 1980 in Salem, Oregon and has a total area of just under 72,000 square feet (6,700 m2).
As the stores expanded in size, restaurants were added beginning in 1979, reaching their peak with the then-largest (and most expensive) Westfield San Francisco Centre California flagship store that opened in 1989, that included no fewer than four restaurants as well as an English pub. Recently, the “Espresso Bar” from older stores has been discontinued and re-introduced as the “eBar” with offering a variety of quick-fix snacks, and an expanded “hotbar” drink list. Smaller stores (mostly consisting of two-stories) now have an “in-House Cafe”, which offers the same menu but with seating. Nordstrom has also revised its four restaurants (found in select stores), the casual “Classic Cafe” and “Marketplace Cafe”, the “Cafe Bistro” specializing in brick oven entrees and the “Nordstrom Grill” offering food and alcoholic beverages. The Nordstrom restaurants have similar menus and offer different specials daily. The restaurants offer beer and wine.
Nordstrom sold its stand-alone boutique chain Façonnable in 2007 though it still offers that label in its lineup.
In February 2011, Nordstrom announced the acquisition of HauteLook, an LA-based online retailer that offers flash sales on designer goods. The deal includes Nordstrom paying $180 million in stock and a three-year “earn-out” payment based on Haute Look’s financial performance.
On May 26, 2011, Nordstrom announced that they will be closing the downtown Indianapolis, Indiana Circle Center Mall location due to declining business at Downtown site. The remaining location on the north side of the city at the Fashion Mall at Keystone as well as the future Nordstrom Rack store in the Rivers Edge Shopping Center, also on the north side, will remain as the only two locations in the state. Erik Nordstrom, president of stores at Nordstrom stated, “We’ve enjoyed serving our customers in downtown Indianapolis, but unfortunately our business has declined over the long term for some time and despite our efforts to turn things around we don’t see the outlook significantly changing.”
In August 2011, Nordstrom opened the store Treasure & Bond in SoHo, New York. Intended to test the waters of the tumultuous high-end department store scene in New York, all profits of Treasure & Bond will be donated to charity. The customer base of the smaller store is thought to be the younger, more free-willed sister of the typical Nordstrom customer.
March 22, 2012, City Creek Center opened up in Downtown Salt Lake City, with a new Nordstrom anchor store. The store features a light feature on the west façade adjacent to Temple Square (as seen in the picture on the right). City Creek Center’s only other anchor is Macy’s.
During this same time Nordstrom also announced plans to open a Nordstrom Rack in Milwaukee in 2014. In late November 2012, Nordstrom announced that they will also be opening a full line Nordstrom Department Store in 2015 in Milwaukee at Mayfair Mall a half a mile away from the Nordstrom Rack location. Milwaukee is the largest metropolitan area in the country that does not have a Nordstrom. Such unmet demand was highlighted in Nordstrom’s decision to open in the Milwaukee area.
On January 4, 2013 Nordstrom confirmed a new location in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan region. To be located at the Ridgedale Center it will be the second in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area. Following the success of its Mall of America opening in 1991, Nordstrom has sought to expand in the Twin Cities market. Plans were originally made in 2007 to open at Ridgedale Center in 2011, only to be canceled in 2009. The current announcement is for an opening in Fall, 2015.
On October 1, 2013 Nordstrom announced that it would be opening a new Rack location in Philadelphia in the fall of 2014. This will be the first Rack in the city of brotherly love. This news was well received by critic Nathan Copes. Following the success of their full-line Christiana Mall location, Nordstrom announced on February 5, 2014 that they will be opening their first Rack store in Delaware, scheduled for a fall 2015 opening. In Fall 2014 Nordstrom announced the closure of their store at Mall of Georgia in Georgia and closed the store in February 2015.
Nordstrom’s full-line stores can be found in the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.