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Jamie Nordstrom on the Retailer’s Integrated Approach Across Channels: ‘It’s One Customer’

In 2014, Jamie Nordstrom shifted from running Nordstrom.com to becoming president of the department store division — a move supporting Nordstrom Inc.’s evolution toward integrating its operations.

“There was a period of time for a lot of retailers like us when we were managing the dot-com and store businesses separately, with different teams and organizations. Across the company, in technology, accounting, finance, the supply chain, HR, we needed to transform our thinking,” he said. “The real win would come from having an integrated approach both online and in stores — for the merchandise, the messaging and all service touch points for our customers, be it buy online, pick up in-store, styling, alterations or returns.”

Not many retail executives have as much experience across selling channels as Jamie Nordstrom, the cousin of brothers Erik and Pete Nordstrom, respectively Nordstrom Inc.’s CEO and president/chief brand officer.

Jamie began his career in 1986, in the stockroom of Nordstrom’s Bellevue, Wash., store. He then worked in sales in shoes through high school and college, held positions in merchandise management, store management and buying, and from 2005 to 2014 was president of Nordstrom.com when the online revenue grew from $250 million to over $1.6 billion. Dot-com continues to grow, accounting for $5.7 billion, or 55%, of Nordstrom’s $10.33 billion in total sales last year, when the business was severely impacted by the pandemic, and about $5 billion, or 33%, of Nordstrom’s total sales of $15.13 billion in 2019.

Jamie was the vision behind the 2011 Nordstrom acquisition of the HauteLook flash sale website, and in 2014 he led the launch of Nordstromrack.com. As president of the Nordstrom department stores, he has been involved in several openings, notably the first international store in Calgary, Canada, and the Manhattan flagship, as well as closing 16 department stores in a downsizing completed last year.

Given all that, it’s not surprising what he seems most proud of — initiatives to create more seamless customer experiences, elevated services and greater conveniences.

He explained that by integrating the store and online merchandising teams for a companywide “single view” of inventory, the salespeople and customers get access to nearly all Nordstrom merchandise “anywhere and anytime.”

“It’s about getting our teams really focused on Nordstrom customers as opposed to the store customer or the internet customer,” said Jamie. “It’s one customer. Nobody exclusively shops in stores or online. More than 50% of customers who shop in-store will have started their shopping journey online with us, and similarly a significant number of customers who buy from us online started their journey by seeing a product in-store.”

Nordstrom Inc.’s three-year “Closer to You” agenda — unveiled last February to media and the investor community — calls for dramatically widening dot-com offerings from 300,000 SKUs to 1.5 million, growing the Rack off-price business by layering in products with lower prices, and advancing the three-year-old market strategy linking and leveraging store, distribution and digital assets, to provide greater services and conveniences at the local level with the intent of triggering deeper engagement by shoppers.

“Buy online, pick up in-store is one of the fastest-growing parts of the company’s business,” said Jamie. “Having a big selection of merchandise ready for next-day pickup at local stores, using all the inventory available in that market, be it from local stores or from online, requires a lot of people to make that work.”

Thanks to the market strategy, in each of Nordstrom’s top 20 markets, four times more inventory is available for next-day pickup of a Nordstrom.com order at the most convenient, Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack or Nordstrom Local store.

“We have nearly 350 physical locations to supplement our digital capabilities,” said Jamie. “In the Los Angeles market alone, we have 16 stores with inventory available for next-day pickup at the store.”

Asked how far the market strategy has progressed, he answered, “I still think we are in the first or second inning on how to deliver on customers’ increasingly high expectations. It’s a never-ending cycle of listening to what the customer is asking for and getting the team to deliver on that demand. “Good service is not the absence of bad service,” Jamie continued. “Good service is often invisible. You don’t notice it. When we execute well the customer says, ‘That is just great.’’’

He draws an analogy of being in a top restaurant. “You get your water, and then your water is full again, as opposed to somebody coming up and saying, ‘Would you want more water?’ We want to be in the place where your glass is always full.”

Food and beverage is something Nordstrom executives know a lot about. “It has been part of our offer for 40 years,” Jamie said. “It’s in every Nordstrom department store, and over the last 10 years, more bars have been brought in. Cocktail lounges have been a real win. Food and beverage is one of the most pure forms of service. We are really proud of our restaurants.”

In a broad sense, service is also about exposing customers to products other than those they may have come to the store or the website for, and helping them locate items they may have trouble finding. In the last 18 months or so, Nordstrom, as Jamie said, has been “unleashing the sales team through new tools and social media to engage with customers to create excitement about new styles and find something cool they didn’t know they had to have. We are constantly looking at leveraging our sales team, our supply chain and our vendors to give customers more choices.”

In Q1, there was progress in expanding personalization by providing tools to more salespeople and stylists to offer customers highly relevant recommendations, both in-store and digitally, and to chat with them.

More than 50% of Nordstrom’s salespeople are now utilizing these remote styling tools, a 10-point increase compared to the quarter before. Nordstrom’s tools provide associates with stored information to keep track of what customers are asking for and buying. They also have “style boards” so associates can arrange outfits that can be viewed digitally on a cell phone.

Over the past year, Nordstrom has also been livestreaming. “We are in the very early stages of what that can mean for our business. Our best salespeople and influencers are doing livestreaming,” said Jamie. “We’ll put our sales [team] against anyone else’s.

“For as long as I have been around, there’s been this focus on having good people and the right amount of them,” Jamie added, when asked what he believes makes his family’s company unique.

Asked whether Nordstrom spends more than its competitors on manning its stores, Jamie said, “I don’t know what others spend, but to get the right quality talent, you’ve got to make sure you have effective compensation. We’ve had primarily a commissions-based organization for a long time. The value of that is our people think of it as their own business, that it’s their name on the door.”

With the nation’s labor shortage, “It’s a challenge out there, and it’s no different for us. But we’ve got a pretty good story to tell as an employer.”

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