American retail company
Founded: as a shoe retailer by Carl F. Wallin and John W. Nordstrom as Wallin & Nordstrom in Seattle, 1901. Company History: Second store established, 1923; Nordstrom retires, sells his share of the company to his sons, 1928; Wallin retires, sells interest to Nordstrom sons, 1929; Lloyd Nordstrom, another son, joins the company, 1933; expansion throughout Washington, and into Oregon and California; purchased Best Apparel, 1963; acquired Nicholas Ungar retailer and renamed new store Nordstrom Best, 1966; opened a Nordstrom Best in Tacoma, Washington, 1966; changed name to Nordstrom Inc., 1973; Nordstrom Rack stores opened in Seattle, 1975; company restructured, 1999. Company Address: 1617 Sixth Avenue, Suite 700, Seattle, WA 98101, USA. Company Website: www.nordstrom.com.
Spector, Robert, and Patrick D. McCarthy, The Nordstrom Way (2nd edition), New York, 2000.
Palmieri, Christopher, "Filling Big Shoes," in Forbes, 15 November 1999.
"Nordstrom Launches New Retail Cards," in PR Newswire (Seattle), 5 April 2000.
Bond, Jeff, "What's Inside Nordstrom's Reinvention?" in Washington CEO, July 2000.
"Nordstrom to Buy Faconnable, a Top Seller in Its Stores," in the New York Times, 7 September 2000.***
Carl F. Wallin, a Seattle shoemaker, and John W. Nordstrom opened a shoe store, Wallin & Nordstrom, in Seattle in 1901. The partners built their business on the philosophy of offering customers the best in service, selection, quality, and value. Today, Nordstrom continues to grow and thrive on that very same philosophy through its family-controlled business. Nordstrom believes in service with a smile and wants to project an image of smalltown modesty—that's the corporate culture and it sells. An example of this phenomenon is Patrick McCarthy, who retired in 2000, and was the top salesperson for 15 consecutive years, selling over $1 million per year in the downtown Seattle store. Because of his accomplishment, McCarthy was the subject of an article called, "Personal Touch: Service Makes Salesman a Legend at Nordstrom."
Wallin and Nordstrom opened a second shoe store in Seattle's University District in 1923. The stores did well and in 1928 Nordstrom retired and sold his share of the company to his sons, Everett and Elmer. The following year Wallin retired, and sold his interests to Nordstrom sons. A third Nordstrom son, Lloyd, joined the company in 1933, and the company continued to expand throughout Washington and the surrounding states. Nordstrom soon had eight shoe stores in Washington and Oregon, and 13 leased shoe departments in Washington, Oregon, and California. The company's flagship store, in the downtown Seattle, was the largest shoe store in the country.
In the 1960s, Nordstrom began acquiring other companies, such as Best Apparel. Best Apparel was a Seattle-based clothing store with an outlet in Seattle and another at the Lloyd Center in Portland, Oregon. Nordstrom purchased Nicholas Ungar, a Portland fashion retailer, and merged the store with the existing shoe store in downtown Portland, and renamed the new store Nordstrom Best in 1966. Another Nordstrom Best was opened in Tacoma, Washington, and the company continued expanding and changed its name to simply Nordstrom, Inc. in 1973. Two years later, the first Nordstrom Rack stores opened in Seattle, and the company continued to grow as an all-purpose retailer through the rest of the 1970s and into the 1980s.
The course for Nordstrom has been to modernize, adding brands such as Caslon, DKNY, and EMME for women and Faconnable (which it later acquired), Kenneth Cole, and Tommy Bahama for men to its racks. After the company was restructured in 1999, Nordstrom decided to sharpen its image with consumers. In May 2000, Nordstrom declared "Reinvent Yourself" as its advertising campaign: when customers entered stores, they no longer saw piano players wearing tuxedos (a former trademark) and instead found modernized displays with hip, brighter, flashier colors, and the more casual apparel. Nordstrom also changed its advertising style, airing trendy commercials during hit shows like ER and Ally McBeal.
Following trends to make shopping easier for its customers, Nordstrom entered the Internet world in the spring of 1999 with its own website (www.nordstrom.com). The website was created to announce fashion shows, augment advertising, and often showcases select window and store displays. Further, it echoes trends of the season and is full of photos of Nordstrom's clothing, shoes, jewelry, gifts, and accessories available at stores. Customers can easily click to items to buy, add them to their shopping bag, visit customer service, request a catalogue, and use their credit card. Nordstrom's catalogue, like its website, is another exceptional convenience—available 24 hours a day, with toll-free phone operators and personal shoppers.
Nordstrom took customer convenience a step further when they hired Jennifer Morla in April 2000 to help redesign the company's proprietary credit card. Morla, a renowned designer based in San Francisco, helped Nordstrom depart from its conservative look to a more upbeat, fresh style for the company. For customers' credit ease, Nordstrom added the Nordstrom Retail, Nordstrom Legacy, Nordstrom Platinum, and Nordstrom Platinum Legacy proprietary cards.
One thing customers notice about Nordstrom, in its 72 full-line stores and 28 Nordstrom Rack stores, is the continued personal touch of the company's customer service. Nordstrom is still controlled and owned by a family, whose commitment and philosophy are the foundation of its success. Nordstrom may move forward with the trends of technology, but the needs of today's consumers will always come first.
—Kimbally A. Medeiros