Nordstrom Takes on the Age of Amazon

In a time when E-stores are taking over retail, you’d think that a new brick and mortar store would be a lost cause.  But, on Thursday morning, hundreds of people of all ages, color and races lined up near Columbus Circle to be the first to get into New York’s newest department store: a for-men only Nordstrom store.

The 47,000 square-foot, three-level store is the latest addition to the chain’s 369 stores across 40 states. “It has been a long, long time since we have wanted to open this store in New York City, so getting this first step is really a big deal to us,” Erik Nordstrom, co-president of the retailer that bears his family name, told NY City Lens.  A woman’s store is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019.

The opening marks a milestone for the city.  For most of the 20th century, New York was the home to some of the largest retail stores in the country, but during the last two decades, the number of chain retail stores here has decreased drastically, mostly because so many New Yorkers have. chosen e-commerce as their main option for shopping.  Toys R Us is closing, Kmart is gone, Lord & Taylor’s has only a handful of stores left and some Macy’s, J.C. Penney, and Abercrombie and Fitch have all shut outlets in many of the city’s malls.

Co-president Nordstrom acknowledged that now customers live in a digitalized world where they use their phones around the clock from anywhere to buy just about anything. So, one of the goals of the new store, he said, is to integrate the shopping experience with a digital component.  That’s why this Nordstrom will also feature a “buy online and pick-up” option at the store to serve their customers very fast, even if they are not physically in the store.

“We not fighting back e-commerce,” Nordstrom said. “We’re integrating different technologies to make an easier shopping journey without disintegrating our physical stores.” 

The Nordstrom Columbus Circle store will also offer three-hour, same day delivery if orders are placed before 8 p.m. After 8, orders will be delivered the following day. “Manhattan has a unique dynamic,” said Nordstrom. “People don’t walk around carrying a bunch of bags.” 

This store also features on-site alterations and tailoring, a shoe shine service, and the possibility of reserving items online to try on later in the store.  A clubhouse with Central Park views and cocktails and a coffee shop are also on the premises.

A store central showcase: an avatar that appears on a 7-foot screen that allows customers to create a custom suit by choosing a fabric and punching in their measurements to see what it looks like on a model that is similar to them. Then, they can zoom in and out to different parts of the jacket, pause it,  turn it around  and get a 360-degree view of the suit.

Nordstrom’s New York move is bold, given the digital retail landscape. E-commerce sales are growing nine times faster than traditional physical stores since 1998. In 2015, $192.1 billion was attributed to e-sales, according to the U.S. Census.

Even though e-commerce has skyrocketed, causing a burden in the last decades for brick-and-mortar stores, Nordstrom has survived,  becoming widely known for its stellar customer service, something, Co-President Nordstrom said, will never disappear in the chain’s stores.

In the first few hours after the store opened, customers were already taking notice of that service.

“This store is lovely and sale people are great,” said Roberta Katz, a senior who accompanied her husband to explore the store. “I think this store will succeed because they give excellent service and their location is in the wealthiest area of Manhattan, 57th Street.”

Katz, however, said she didn’t find much that she liked during her first shopping trip. “So far I’ve only seen a sports jacket,” she said. “ I think the price is quite high. At first flash, it seems to be they are targeted more to the upper class.” Others like Attina Piros, 51, said she thought the store was more catered toward tourists.

Not everyone agreed. “The prices vary and you can find anything you’re looking for,” said Clayton Fearon.

The company brought-in employees that know Nordstrom’s culture from different parts of the country, people from Dallas, Arizona, and California, but it also hired people from New York that know the city’s culture. “So we have this mixture that makes this store an exciting place to work at,” said Duane Robinson, 29, an employee that moved from Philadelphia to work at this store.

“Working here is a dream come true,” Duane Robinson, 29.

This Nordstrom store is adding 200 employees to the almost 29 million nationwide in the retail  industry. The National Retail Federation reported that retailers employ approximately one out of five Americans.