Nordstrom defies retail trend by opening New York store

Nordstrom will open its first full-line store in Manhattan, a sleek, three-floor home to men's clothing, shoes and grooming supplies at 57th Street and Broadway.
Nordstrom will open its first full-line store in Manhattan, a sleek, three-floor home to men's clothing, shoes and grooming supplies at 57th Street and Broadway.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - The Nordstrom family has run stores for more than a century, first selling shoes in the Pacific North-west and later introducing fashion-forward clothing to wealthy suburbanites across the country.

But the Nordstroms, one of the last remaining dynasties of US retailing, had never made a big bet in the nation's retailing capital until now.

On Thursday, Nordstrom will open its first full-line store in Manhattan, a sleek, three-floor home to men's clothing, shoes and grooming supplies at 57th Street and Broadway.

The Seattle-based company arrives in New York at an inauspicious time for retailers.

Its competitors are selling off or converting some of their grandest stores, not building new ones. The city's toniest shopping strips, in SoHo and on Madison Avenue, have been littered with empty store fronts.

But the Nordstroms think they can buck the trend.

Nordstrom created a mock-up of the new men's store in an industrial area outside Seattle, accessible only to employees, as it tried to figure out how best to appeal to both New York's fashion mavens and more down-to-earth shoppers on lunch break.

The store may serve as a test case for whether department stores have a future, as people more frequently shop online. To compete, Nordstrom is aiming to combine cutting-edge technology with old-school in-store service.

Rag-snapping shoe shiners will work on the bottom floor while digital screens in the suit section will display custom-made jackets on an avatar of the shopper. There will be 16 tailors - part of the largest network of tailors in North America.

If a customer needs a tie at 2am, he can order it online and a Nordstrom employee will meet him at a store entrance - no matter the hour. Returns can be made by simply scanning an item at a digital kiosk and depositing it in a bin.

The company plans to open an even larger women's store, across from the men's store in the fall of 2019.

One reason the company is making such a big investment in Manhattan: Other similar businesses find that their Manhattan stores are among their best performing - despite all the city's recent retail turmoil.