NEW YORK — The saying goes that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Nordstrom is about to find out how hard that is. On April 9, 2018, members of the press got an private tour of its newest New York City retail endeavor, a 47,000 square-foot, three-level men's store on 57th Street and Broadway that opens to the public on April 12. This is the first full-price department store Nordstrom's has opened in the five boroughs, and the company's only stand-alone men's store anywhere.
Men’s apparel accounts for 16% of Nordstrom's sales, according to Fortune. So while this might be a big gamble for the retailer, the payoff could be substantial.
It's not surprising, then that the space is spectacular. The building is encased in floor-to-ceiling glass, offering a sunlit interior and views of the city streets and buildings around it. The effect is palpable, as if the store were designed to not just exist within the city's landscape, but to become a part of it as quickly as possible.
One of the more unusual elements of the store is its brand mix, which features a dizzying array of sportswear, streetwear, denim, suiting, footwear, accessories, grooming products and even guitar amps and cocktail shakers. Branded in-store shops include Calvin Klein, Valentino, Dior and Balenciaga, which are separated by chainmail curtains on the second floor, and slated to stay in place for an indefinite amount of time as part of a continuing Nordstrom partnership. There are also two exclusive branded boutiques — a Christian Louboutin men's shoe shop on the lower level, which is a first for the brand outside its own stores — and Comme des Garçons pop-up shop on the main floor that's set to stay for a full year.
Another departure for the retailer is how much emphasis is being placed on casual attire and streetwear within the space. "So much fashion is happening in men's," Paige Thomas, Nordstrom executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s, told Retail Dive. "But traditional suit and tie doesn't always service that."
To that end, the store is betting heavily on the high-end casuals mixed in with its still-substantial tailored business offerings. Unexpected store-exclusive labels include Bonobos and Topman, in addition to hip clothes from Psycho Bunny, Allsaints and Russell Wilson's Good Man.
Denim is a big focus here and in addition to heavily investing in Levi's — the store features exclusive Levi’s Authorized Vintage product, a Levi’s Tailor Shop, plus Levi’s Made & Crafted and Levi’s Vintage Clothing — the jeanswear selection also includes exclusive styles from Citizens of Humanity and Frame, and features 122 washes across multiple brands.
Active is also being emphasized, with 50% of the store's footwear mix devoted to sneakers, and exclusive Nike Men’s Project products. "Historically, we approached active as performance wear. now we're moving into active as lifestyle," Thomas said.
Mixing high tech and service
Yet the merchandise mix isn't the only novel concept Nordstrom is trying out here. Technology is integral to the space's functionality and is featured throughout the store in ways both large and imperceptible. For example, digital self-serve kiosks, located at all the store's entrances, allow for express returns while charging stations are placed strategically throughout the store. Meanwhile, Nordstrom has implemented Theatro, a wireless communication system that allows associates to share information and facilitate customer service requests without the need for disruptive loudspeaker announcements. There's also a buy online, pickup in-store service in addition to app-based digital Style Boards and on-site customization for some of its tailored suit products.
Service, always a key differentiator for Nordstrom, also plays a large role. After testing it out in 10 other locations, this men's store will be the first to offer 24-hour pickup on in-store merchandise. Customers will be able to arrange a merchandise pickup at any hour and the store will maintain someone on staff to facilitate.
Inside the space, there are two food and beverage spots — a coffee bar on the lower level, and The Clubhouse on the second floor, which offers sandwiches and can even deliver wine or cocktails to the dressing rooms. Then there are extras such as three-hour Manhattan delivery on available items, shoe shine and sneaker-cleaning services, 16 in-store tailors, five personal shoppers and Nordstrom to You, which brings the in-store experience including styling, tailoring and deliveries, to customers in their homes. Overall, the store will have 200 employees when it opens.
All this fits into Nordstrom's larger strategy, which has been to better incorporate technology, blurring the line between channels and making it easy for customers to switch between online and offline during their shopping journey. That makes many of the amenities in this new space potential harbingers of things to come. Yet there are still a few kinks to work out. For one thing, the store gives more of a tourist's view of New York City than a local one, with its emphasis on reminding visitors just how very New York it is. Examples include what one staffer called a "vintage 1986" New York City video installation, or an exclusive CBGB/Timberland boot collaboration. Yet the location itself is as much a tourist destination as anything, and Nordstrom might be savvy in its attempt to cater to the well-heeled visitors that frequent this Columbus Circle location.
An eye to the future
It's likely this store will be another feather in the cap of a company that consistently beats the retail odds. Even the space it occupies was something of a lucky accident. Nordstrom's 367,000 square-foot flagship store, opening in fall 2019, has been in the works since 2012, so when the space across the street became available, the company snapped it up. The total footprint will be expansive and impressive, and will ultimately encompass four properties along Broadway between West 57th and West 58th Streets. Only the original Seattle flagship, at 383,000 square feet, will be larger.
The new retail footprint will likely be the cornerstone of the brand's push to change the landscape of New York City, one shopper at a time. And now is as good a time as any to take that leap. Although Nordstrom family members have been trying to take its company private for some time, the company's independent directors rejected a bid for that in March 2018, which might end up being a good thing.
Today, Nordstrom operates 122 full-line stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, 236 Nordstrom Rack stores, two Jeffrey boutiques, two clearance centers, seven Trunk Club stores, the Nordstrom Local showroom concept store, plus Nordstrom.com, Nordstromrack.com, HauteLook and TrunkClub.com. And while the number of Nordstrom Rack stores surpassed the number of full-line stores in 2013, the company is by no means ignoring the high-end market.
Full-line stores bring in 44.9% of its total revenue. It also doesn't hurt that the company has a vertically integrated system for managing overstock through its many discount stores. Then too, it's helpful for Nordstrom's image to showcase a sleek, luxury shopping experience that will draw aspirational customers to all levels of its retail empire. So as the space evolves, the team behind can use it to better understand the customer it serves both locally and in terms of digital integration.
"What we want to do is learn a lot," said Shea Jensen, Nordstrom senior vice president of customer experience told Retail Dive. "We know we're going to get a lot of feedback."