2019, like the past several years before, hasn’t been the strongest for brick and mortar retail.
But for Nordstrom, it’s been a year of brick and mortar highs, with the highest of those coming in October when it opened its much-anticipated New York City flagship store. The space, which sits near Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, just a few blocks south of Central Park, occupies 320,000 square feet and seven floors. And Scott Meden, Nordstrom CMO, said that the Seattle-based retailer has made an extra effort to ensure that this new store is not just a success story, but can compete on a global scale.
“Their New York store has ushered in a new vision for what Nordstrom can be,” said Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York-based consultancy.
Meden said the question Nordstrom approached its first New York City flagship with was: “What does it take to be a flagship store in Manhattan or any of the other great cities in the world?” He referenced spots like Selfridges and Harrods in London and Galeries Lafayette and Bon Marché in Paris as the inspiration the Nordstrom team looked into designing the NYC flagship.
The answer to that question is about much more than just product. Nordstrom in NYC has a DryBar, a nail salon, a HeyDay for facials, multiple restaurants and more.
“It is about much more than the store,” said Meden. “We really were focused on ‘How do we open a market?’ On each floor, we thought about what that customer is shopping for and what might be a great way to make that floor.”
What’s particularly notable about this flagship is that it exclusively sells products targeted towards women—from clothing to shoes to beauty. The brand’s men’s presence exists across the street from the flagship in a smaller operation that opened last year that Meden said served as a testing ground of sorts for the brand.
“It felt like it was great to be open and do business so we can be in the market and start to better understand the customer and the dynamics of Manhattan before we get to opening our women’s store,” he added.
The New York City flagship is just the latest example of Nordstrom’s continuing bet on brick-and-mortar retail, even as countless competitors are shuttering their doors. That includes NYC department store icon Barneys New York, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and is currently undergoing liquidation, and Lord and Taylor, who closed their longstanding Fifth Avenue flagship last year. A new player arrived on the NYC department store scene earlier this year, with Neiman Marcus opening its first location in the city at Hudson Yards.
The financials are on Nordstrom’s side; According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the store is expected to help fuel over $700 million in sales in the New York market. Nordstrom’s strong third quarter results drove a 10.6% increase in stock price last week.
“No question that retail is an industry that in a moment of transformation, and no question that New York is a city that has fantastic retail already, and you can certainly take one view and say there’s there’s not any need for another store in Manhattan,” acknowledged Meden. “Our view is that we can bring something and offer something, hopefully that Manhattan residents and tourists will respond to. We have a little bit of a unique positioning, having everything from Topshop to Celine to Vince to Valentino all in one place.”
That product assortment, Phibbs said, helps to set Nordstrom apart from its competitors, particularly in NYC.
“They’re one of the few who understands that how your merchandise the products in line with what your customer does, meaning that you now can find high-end luxury designer labels with mass market items, all on the same display table,” he said. “They’ve understood that the shopper today is very different than what it used to be a long time ago.”
The new flagships are just part of the story Nordstrom is continuing to build around brick and mortar. In recent years, the retailer has also made investments into new retail concepts, such as Nordstrom Local—a storefront without merchandise that customers can visit to have alterations done, pick up online orders and more. Nordstrom is also bringing digitally-native brands into a physical retail space with its “pop in” concept, which sees small pop-up shops featuring brands like Everlane and Casper in Nordstrom locations.
Meden said that leveraging their store locations is a priority, not to just to provide merchandise, but services and a gathering place, too. But ultimately, the Nordstrom experience needs to be “fast, easy and convenient,” above all else, said Meden.