Features, Retail Insights

Nordstrom 57th Street Opening Night

A cast of thousands mostly well-dressed New Yorkers poured into Nordstrom’s on 57th Street and Broadway on opening night to celebrate and examine the new entrant in luxury shopping in New York City. Those of us from the broader retail pundit community welcome a breath of fresh air and a new standard of service and friendliness to our landscape. That’s the Nordstrom promise. On a chilly rainy night that level of friendliness was self-evident. Each Nordstrom interaction started with a smile and sense of genuine interest. Many of us noticed refugees from Bloomingdale’s, Saks and Bergdorf who have found a new and they hope, a better employer. My two lovely guests from Turkey who came in fashionista black both felt underdressed for the occasion. There were more self-confident women making style statements than I’ve seen since my trolling days at Studio 54. But I digress.

The store is spacious. It is an elite world where what matters is not the volume of customers you serve, but the quality and depth of the pocketbook of those you attract. Good architectural sightlines on 57th Street remind you that Bloomingdale’s 59th Street isn’t one building but rather a combination of several, which means even the experienced visitor can get dazed and confused. The operating design construct at Nordstrom that has bled over from museum design is Metrotropic – the idea that you can look out a window onto a streetscape and have a basic understanding of where you are. The museum vibe is reinforced by all the original art (with its own curated tour). The tinted windows and some natural light this retail urban interior replicates the experience of an apartment living room or bedroom and gets the customer more comfortable with how the product might look in the comfort of their home.

An International Bridge

I used my limited language abilities to have brief conversations is French, Russian, Spanish and Arabic with staff members whose language skills were showcased on their name tags. In London, Paris and Tokyo the reining department stores excel in welcoming the well-heeled foreign visitor. Years ago, I was told that Macy’s considers anyone from outside the five boroughs a foreigner. Even New York visitors deserve a better welcome from merchants than they have historically gotten. Envirosell research has shown that in many gateway cities – New York, Houston, San Francisco — a remarkable percentage of credit card transactions for any given store over a certain dollar volume are to off-shore accounts.

Feedback on the New Nordstrom

I have two suggestions.

  1. First, our database shows that the average time in dressing rooms has gone up by 20 percent over the past 10 years as more shoppers use social media inside the dressing room to get peer opinion and approval of their potential purchases. The dressing room, particularly at a Nordstrom, is a social media studio. Given that images end up on Instagram, Facebook and others, something in the background in the dressing room that lets the viewer understand where the picture was taken is 21st century guerilla marketing. Based on my dressing room visits last night – some gentle fine tuning would help.
  2. Again, as researchers we have worked on shoe sections of department stores across the globe. One very clear understanding is that a shoe section works better and gets a higher conversion ratio if there is a variety of seating heights. The taller the mature women, the more likely she is to sit in a chair that is easier to get in and out of. In many of the Nordstrom shoe sections the seating was limited to one low height. On a stack of Bibles, Talmuds and Korans (no religious offence intended), I promise Nordstrom the performance of that section will improve.

My wife did comment that the proceeds of her next project might be dedicated to the Moncler down coat she tried on — on sale for a $2550. We hope the big gamble Nordstrom’s has taken succeeds. We are a better shopping city for their efforts.

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