Nordstrom taps Rack exec as first chief innovation officer

Dive Brief:

  • Nordstrom, Inc. on Monday announced that Nordstrom Rack president Geevy Thomas will take on the newly created role of chief innovation officer, according to a company press release.

  • Karen McKibbin, a 30-year Nordstrom veteran, and most recently its first president of Nordstrom Canada, will replace Thomas as president of the off-price Nordstrom Rack unit.

  • The announcements come less than a week after the department store retailer said that chief technology officer Kumar Srinivasan is leaving after less than a year in that role. A search is still underway for his replacement.

Dive Insight:

Nordstrom is wasting little time re-aligning its digital team after the untimely departure of Srinivasan. The retailer is known for being digital savvy, but has been on a mission to reevaluate its e-commerce operations and tech teams in an effort to move out of the doldrums and find ways to fight the higher costs of e-commerce.

In his statement Monday, co-president Erik Nordstrom said that with Thomas on board the company aims to keep its customer-centric approach in focus, even as it continues to break down channels between stores and its digital operations. "Our business was founded and built over the years through our full-line stores, and today they still represent the largest portion of our sales volume," Nordstrom said. "However, the way customers are choosing to shop in a more digitally-connected world continues to change, and we know we need to find ways for our stores to evolve with them.”

Nordstrom earlier this year said it’s maintaining its $300 million spending level on e-commerce, but acknowledged that may be the outer limit of what it’s willing to do, considering its brick-and-mortar stores are integral to its omnichannel success. Last fall, the retailer promoted Ken Worzel, its executive vice president of strategy and development since 2010, to president of its unit, brothers Erik, Blake and Pete Nordstrom, who serve as co-presidents of the company, also changed up their duties.

The retailer has already taken major steps to break down the walls between its digital and e-commerce operations and its full-line and off-price stores and sites. Rewards can be earned through either channel, and Nordstrom returns can be made at Rack outlets, and customers can migrate to the Rack website from the full-line one. In October, the company unveiled a mobile “reserve and try” pilot, where customers can shop on their mobile device and set aside items to try on in the store. 

The retailer’s app also includes "Store Mode,” which allows customers to save their favorite or closest store and keep track of inventory there as well as inventory company-wide. Meanwhile, "Visual Search" is a Slyce-enabled feature that finds an item in Nordstrom’s inventory that matches a user-taken photo.

After a successful launch of Nordstrom’s Canada business, McKibbin will take on the company’s robust and growing Rack operations. Unlike many department stores just now getting into the off-price game, Rack was established more than 40 years ago and in recent years, the unit has emerged as one of the company’s strongest performers and a major opportunity for growth.

“This underscores the importance of this part of the business to the overall health of the company – something, in our view, that puts Nordstrom as a whole in a much better position compared to its department store rivals,” Conlumino retail analyst Neil Saunders wrote in a note emailed to Retail Dive in November. 

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