Nordstrom shut down its entire fleet in mid-March and began reopening stores in May. Specific challenges running a retail business exacerbated by the global health crisis include for Jamie Nordstrom many elements going from creating greater awareness on curbside pickup to returns. The first big test will be with Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale, running Aug. 19 to 30, and giving customers discounts on fresh goods for a limited time, and early access to Nordstrom card customers. Nordstrom has been rolling out next-day delivery in its top markets, including Los Angeles and New York. Nordstrom’s digital commerce last year represented about 35% of the total business. It is rapidly growing and could reach a 50-50 business maybe by the end of this year. The percentage would shift significantly due to loss of traffic in the stores this year from COVID-19.
Sales people are doing a lot more virtual appointments, on a phone call or Zoom, showing new merchandise to clients and offering styling advise. However, Jamie Nordstrom underscored the relevance of brick-and-mortar. “Once we get past this mode we are in and people feel comfortable, the role for a great store is going to be as important as ever. Shoppers want stores that have compelling assortments, great service, great food and beverage —experiences where you bump into something that you didn’t expect to find.” He said at the full-line fleet, bars have been added and that at the 57th Street Manhattan women’s flagship. Providing compelling products and great experiences is “a thick recipe” that could even include making the alterations process more fun. Pre-COVID-19, the vast majority of the business was done just on relying traffic of people coming into the store. The world looks very different now and is probably going to be that way for a while.
Another challenge is managing the supply chain and systems differently taking it from a wide range of categories, to focusing more on the few hot ones, such as bringing the supply of pumps, special occasion and wear-to-work footwear styles down and broadening active, athleisure and sneaker areas.
Urban retail hubs will make a comeback after the pandemic subsides, Nordstrom suggested. “A lot of times people have bet against New York and have been proven wrong,” referencing 9/11 and the 2008 recession. Nordstrom Rack had “pretty strong and consistent” performance through the pandemic. Traffic to Rack stores has been above average for the company.