In April 2018, Nordstrom opened a brand new men’s store in Midtown Manhattan. The store opened prior to a larger women’s store across Broadway, which plans to open in Fall of 2019. Nordstrom initially planned to house all in the same unopened building, but they felt more confident with dedicating additional space which resulted this 47,000-square-foot annex dedicated to men’s.

While market expectations for the retail industry have been low, Nordstrom outperformed for some of the recent quarters. The brand new men’s store and forthcoming women’s store are, for Nordstrom, not only a gamble for stepping into New York City, which has been the biggest Nordstrom online market, but also for a brick and mortar retail renaissance.

Hybrid of High and Low

The store was filled with high-end brands such as COMME des GARÇONS, Balenciaga, Gucci but there were also more reasonably priced items from Vans, Adidas, and Samuelsohn. For example, each brand features uniquely designed display furniture and decor and were carefully placed at the shoes area in the basement. The college of different brands and furniture was carefully orchestrated so that walking unstraight paths through the setup was exciting; each item came to my attention very well.

The furniture and decor weren’t only designed uniquely by their color and shape but the design was approachable. To me, it was a good contrast to Barneys New York at Chelsea where its furniture looks too expensive and overwhelming. There, the experience seems to revolve around its interior space and products seem secondary. On the other hand, products themselves were the center of the experience at Nordstrom. Also, store staff was extremely friendly and smiley, not in overwhelming sales-way, which also contributed to the positive store experience.

Extra Something for a Physical Store

The store also provides various services beyond purchasing. The first example is more immersive and tangible- clothing customizations. Customers can take a look and feel various fabric to choose from and can customize their own jeans or suites with a consultation by onsite stylists. If they need more visual guidance, there is also a screen that can show real size suits with fabrics of their choice. Fabrics are not only a portion to customize but there are samples of various suits garments. Seeing and feeling these detailed items provides great inspiration for one to put their dream suit together with expert advice. Once customization is done, there are 16 tailors stationed at the store to create more real-time experience. Seeing these tailors at stations itself is an exceptional experience that cannot be replaced with online shopping.

Customers can choose from various items to customize clothing
Tailors at the signature LEVI’S shop on 2nd floor (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)

In Nordstrom, I felt their message of retaining customer relationships beyond one purchase. Tailors can also contribute to fixing clothes that customers already had. There is a shoe-shine station which serves shoe shining for $2.50 and sneaker cleaning for $4.50. Those prices seem to be reasonable considering the experience. For example, customers can spend time at the bar on the second floor or the cafe in the basement while tailors or shoe-shiners are taking care of your clothings.

Shoe Shine station by the shoe sections (Mary Hanbury/Business Insider)

There is also a drop-off station close to the entrance for customers to return items. Customers can order online and pick up at the store even in the middle of a night. During business hours, there is a dedicated pick up station. These may provide more retail opportunities for customers to stop by more to the store. All of these after-purchase services are hard to achieve in online retail with the equivalent experiences. For busier customers, Nordstrom also provides $20 same day delivery within Manhattan to compete against online retail.

Customers can return items at the kiosk close to the entrance by scanning the receipt (Business Insider)
Order PickUp station is behind the coffee shop where there is a bench to wait for a service as well (Business Insider)

Comparison to Japanese Retail Experiences

The experience of Nordstrom reminds me of how department stores are in Japan. One example is Isetan. Although the store is composed of a regular retail setup for normal shoppers to enjoy, its backbone is to cater toward cherishable wealthy returning customers, “Otokuisama”. Its mission has been to provide products and services from cradle to grave; The store doesn’t only provide products selected with the deepest expertise but the store also has to cover every part of a customers’ life. Isetan flies shoe makers from Italy to provide custom shoes and sends its staff to one’s home to for shoe-shine if “Otokuisame” requests. Nordstrom takes a similar approach but is targeted to different age groups. To do so, Nordstrom’s after purchase services are less overwhelming and less intrusive, but much more self-guided comparing to those of Isetan.

The other example is department stores for younger audiences in Japan. There are many brands such as Lumine, Marui, La Foret, and Parco. They have adopted the shopping mall business model from Japanese traditional department stores. These malls house multiple retail tenants to operate independently, but they curate and cycle tenants unlike being just real estate spaces. Nordstrom also has similarly curated and independently branded fixtures coexisting in the same space. At the same time, as this is a highly experimental space, the floor plan is designed to be extremely flexible. Starting only with mens’ area may be extremely risky in retail but the risk might have driven Nordstrom to challenge the unique and experimental experience.

The Calvin Klein boutique space (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)

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References

Nordstrom Opening a New York Store as Other Retailers Close Theirs | New York Times

Nordstrom’s new men’s store will be staffed 24 hours for all-night pickups | MarketWatch

Nordstrom Looks to Win Over Manhattan With Focus on Service | Bloomberg

Nordstrom’s new men’s-only store could be one of its best weapons to defeat the department-store curse — but it may be the only one of its kind | mySA

Nordstrom just opened its first store just for men — here’s what it’s like to shop there | Business Insider

Nordstrom Soothes Investor Fears After Posting Sales Gain | Bloomberg TV Markets and Finance

The Death of the Department Store | Bloomberg TV Markets and Finance

Isetan: shopping as spectacle | Monocle Films

Nordstrom Conquers New York With Its New Men’s Store | Forbes

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