Small, yet mighty

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When the Nordstrom Local concept debuted two years ago, folks like me scratched our heads. How could executives call it a store when they weren’t allocating inventory? How would they measure success?

In September I had the chance to visit the newly minted Nordstrom Local in New York’s West Village, and within minutes of crossing the threshold it all made sense. It’s a small footprint with a mighty mission.

One wall holds a thoughtfully designed display of purchases ready for pickup; a few feet away is a station for unpacking those online purchases. Fitting rooms are available for customers who want to try on their purchases, and with on-site tailors ready to assist, alterations are a convenient fix. If customers are picking up gifts, a wrapping station offers complimentary paper, ribbons and tape.

Like all Nordstrom Local units, this store makes it simple for shoppers to handle returns, provides styling services and offers online ordering. What set this iteration apart is a “pop-in” section, essentially a small, impactful presentation of products from direct-to-consumer stalwart Everlane. The pop-in area will rotate every six weeks, providing Nordstrom merchants a way to test shoppers’ appetites for new product and brand discovery. Also distinct to this store (and another on the other side of town) is a donation area, created in partnership with Housing Works, where customers can drop off gently used items.

The overwhelming feelings I had while in the space were a mix of calmness and productivity. Obviously, there isn’t a lot of product, yet the items that were on display were highly curated, suggesting these represented the most important seasonal trends. The fact that I could pick up a gift I had ordered online, wrap it right there and then go directly to the party meant I never had to deal with recycling the box, or hunt for paper and scissors and tape.

Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s senior vice president of customer experience, says that’s all by design. Part of what differentiates Nordstrom Local is how the brand meets the customer where they are.

“With our first Local, our objective was to take our best guess at what customers would want and learn from there. What we’ve learned is that this concept just resonates with customers. From the moment we opened the doors here (for the first time), we had customers walking in inquiring about returns and tailoring. They get it. What we’re offering them is a quick stop and some time back, so they can get along with their busy lives,” Jensen says.

“Time is an extremely valuable commodity and customers value having access to services and our people and, of course, fashion in their own neighborhood. With Local, we can expand our footprint, but more importantly create a broader reach that gives customers more access in a convenient way.”

Nordstrom Local, where have you been all my life?

Susan Reda, redas@nrf.com

 

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