Get to know 22 things about Nordstrom you didn't know about stretching beyond its humble history or its rise as one of America's well-loved upscale fashion retailer known for their exemplary customer service.
Nordstrom, Inc. started as a small Seattle shoe shop in 1901 and has since become a world leader in today’s fashion retailing. They offer clothing, shoes, and accessories for men, women, and children with 380 stores at 40 states and Canada. They serve 96 countries online through Nordstrom.com and has posted a revenue of $15.137 billion as of 2017.
1.) It’s been around for a long time
Seattle-based department store and luxury retailer Nordstrom opened up in 1901 as a shoe store. It quickly grew to start selling all manner of clothing, accessories, jewelry, and cosmetics. They even sell furnishings at some stores.
With over a century of history, it’s only natural that the company would develop a corporate personality to match. Nordstrom’s has a reputation for high-priced fashion, with a classy atmosphere to match. Despite some struggles with adapting to the changing world of modern retail, Nordstrom remains a strong name in the department store world.
2.) It’s stayed in the family for generations
The company was originally opened as Wallin & Nordstrom, and it was a partnership between a shoemaker, Carl Wallin, and John W. Nordstrom, a Swedish immigrant who had made a fortune in the Klondike Gold Rush. Wallin eventually left the company, selling back his shares, and the Nordstrom family has maintained control of the business ever since. Nordstrom family members own over 30 percent of the shares in the company.
In over a century, there has only ever been one Nordstrom CEO who was not a part of the Nordstrom family. From 1997 to 2001, John Whitacre acted as CEO. The company is currently managed by Blake W. Nordstrom, Erik B. Nordstrom, and Peter E. Nordstrom, who act in tandem in the role of Co-President & Director.
The current heirs to the Nordstrom family fortune are worth a combined $200 million.
3.) The company almost went private
Nordstrom has been publicly traded since the 1970s at the behest of the third generation of the Nordstrom family. It was originally traded on the NASDAQ with the ticker symbol NOBE. As of 1999, it moved to the New York Stock Exchange, now trading under the symbol NYSE: JWN, which are the initials of the founder.
In 2017, the Nordstrom family began to talk about privatizing the company and taking it off of the public exchanges. They ultimately decided against it, so Nordstrom continues to be publicly traded for now.
4.) Nordstrom Rack will be expanding in the future
In order to appeal to a more budget-conscious consumer base, Nordstrom began to open a sister brand called Nordstrom Rack, which offers deeply discounted versions of the luxury brand’s clothes.
The Rack is an outlet store offering leftovers and over-stock from Nordstrom. By offering clearance prices, the Rack allows people to wear the same fashions at a considerably lower price. Unsurprisingly, the concept is quite popular, and there are now more Rack stores than original Nordstrom department stores with more being planned for the future.
The decision to expand Rack locations comes on the heels of Nordstrom’s decision to remain a public company. The future of Nordstrom as a brand and the nature of its business operations will likely hinge in large part on how successful this expansion is.
5.) You can return clothes bought at the Rack to a regular Nordstrom location
Nordstrom has one of the most generous return policies of any department store. Items can be returned without a receipt, and for a long time, it was even possible to return items that you’d owned for a year or longer. Although the return policy has been tightened in recent times, it continues to focus first and foremost on the customer experience.
What you might not know is that the return policy applies to the Rack as well. Clothes purchased in a Rack store or at the website can be returned to any Nordstrom department store. The clothes you buy at Nordstrom can also be returned to a Rack location. This return policy isn’t widely advertised by the company, but it’s something you can take advantage of for convenience the next time you go shopping.
Since Rack locations already outnumber Nordstrom department stores, this cross-pollination between locations may point to a future where Nordstrom lets go of its luxury brand identity and shifts entire more budget-conscious fashions.
6.) Clothes sold at Nordstrom Rack are not necessarily from Nordstrom
Although many of the items sold at the Rack are Nordstrom over-stock, other brands are sold there as well. In order to keep up with demand at the lower-cost store, the Rack buys some of its clothing specifically for the store. That means you may find brands like Calvin Klein or Lucky that would not be sold at a regular Nordstrom store.
Both Nordstrom and its Rack locations buy American-made clothing brands whenever possible. You can always check the Nordstrom website to see all of the made-in-the-USA fashion brands highlighted by the company.
7.) Nordstrom offers its deepest discounts at its Last Chance clearance store
Last Chance, a Nordstrom clearance store, offers the lowest prices on Nordstrom retail items. The store carries over-stock and returns from Nordstrom and Rack stations across the country as well as from the Nordstrom.com website.
If you’re looking for the best deals on Nordstrom luxury clothing, Last Chance has the deepest discounts. However, you may be in for a long drive to visit one of these stores as there are only two currently in the country. There are Last Chance locations in Phoenix, Arizona and Lombard, Illinois. All items are sold as-is and may be marked down by as much as 95 percent.
8.) Nordstrom partnered with Tesla to sell cars at some stores
Tesla Motors, a luxury car company known for its premium electric cars, entered into a partnership with Nordstrom in 2016. This partnership allowed Tesla to open showrooms inside of select Nordstrom locations in Michigan, North Carolina, and California.
The displays are set in the men’s fashion department, allowing customers who are shopping for suits to see the newest Tesla car model and even arrange for a test drive in the parking lot or to finalize the purchase and drive home the new car that day.
9.) Nordstrom used to have its own bank
Like many department stores, Nordstrom offers its own credit card to shoppers. In order to manage the consumer credit products, the company opened its own chartered bank in 1991. At the time it opened, the bank didn’t offer any checking or savings options. Over time, it expanded to offer a few more banking options to customers.
Nordstrom’s bank is a thing of the past now as of 2017. On November 1 of that year, Charles Schwab bought out Nordstrom Bank and re-branded as Charles Schwab Signature Bank.
10.) Nordstrom stopped carrying Ivanka Trump’s product line
At the beginning of 2017, Nordstrom made the decision to remove Ivanka Trump products from its shelves after sales began to drop due to the Trump presidential campaign. Despite Donald Trump’s vocal condemnation of this decision, Nordstrom’s stock prices actually rose as a result of the choice. In the wake of pulling the ailing product line from its shelves, Nordstrom’s stock price climbed by 7 percent.
Because Nordstrom’s target market doesn’t have a large overlap with the average Trump supporter, it’s likely that Trump’s outspoken admonishment of the company may have actually driven stock prices up rather than turning buyers away from the brand.
11.) Nordstrom offers in-store tailoring for all of their clothing
Clothes don’t always fit perfectly off the rack, and premium department stores like Nordstrom know this. That’s why Nordstrom offers free alterations in all of its store locations, including most Rack stores.
Basic alterations, such as hemming, are usually free. More complicated tailoring jobs may be subject to a nominal fee. You can have any Nordstrom-purchased clothing tailored in the store, even if you bought it online. You’ll just need to provide a receipt or other proof of purchase. In order to get your alterations completed, it’s best to book online or call the store to schedule in advance, but you can often get your clothes altered immediately after purchase if you ask your salesperson.
12.) Nordstrom has legendary customer service
Part of being a luxury retailer is taking the extra care to treat your customers right. Nordstrom’s business model has always been to take care of customers and engender loyalty. Customers receive “thank you” cards for shopping in the store, and perks like free tailoring help to keep customers satisfied.
However, the Nordstrom customer service culture is best illustrated by the legend of the tire return. According to a popular story, a customer in 1975 once brought tires purchased at Northern Commercial Company to Nordstrom for return. Despite not selling tires, Nordstrom supposedly honored the return and gave the man his money.
Whether or not the story is true is debatable, but it definitely speaks to the company’s legendary service that the tale is still being spread around.
13.) There is a Nordstrom location with no merchandise for sale
In 2017, Nordstrom decided to try an interesting experiment. It opened a location in West Hollywood, California that would offer all of the in-person shopping perks that Nordstrom fans are familiar with, such as beverages and clothes to try on. However, the store contained no actual inventory to buy. Instead, shoppers could try out clothes, interact with on-location stylists to find the perfect wardrobe and then order clothes online to be shipped the store location.
The idea behind this revolutionary experiment was to keep shoppers from being overwhelmed by options. Instead of browsing racks full of clothes, the West Hollywood location offered a more curated approach that would allow shoppers to work closely with style experts to pick out what would look best on them.
14.) Nordstrom has a blow-out anniversary sale each year
Nordstrom fans know that the best time to get deep discounts on designer clothing is during the store’s annual anniversary sales event. Scheduled in July each year, the sale is the company’s biggest event.
Unlike many blow-out sales, the Nordstrom anniversary sale happens at the beginning of the season rather than the end. This means that the year’s new fall fashions come out heavily discounted, allowing you to pick them up at low prices when they’re still hot and fresh.
15.) You can sign up for the reward program to earn points on every dollar you spend
If you’re an avid Nordstrom shopper, you should definitely take advantage of the company’s generous rewards program. This program gives shoppers points for every dollar spent in the store or on the website. These points can be redeemed for all sorts of perks including discounts, early Anniversary Sale access, and free alterations.
Nordstrom credit card holders can also earn points by making purchases, which means you can stretch your Nordstrom shopping budget just by spending money on gas, groceries and other essentials when you use a Nordstrom Visa Signature card.
16.) Nordstrom has several options for mid-shopping refreshments
There are more than 200 Nordstrom restaurant locations throughout the country. Options range from walk-up cafes to full-service restaurants located right inside the department store. There are also Nordstrom espresso bars, juice bars, gelato shops and even fully-stocked bars where you can enjoy a cocktail to relax in the middle of a shopping trip.
17.) Nordstrom offers price-matching
Nordstrom wants to offer good deals on its luxury clothing, and it’s willing to adjust its prices to make that happen. If you find an item priced lower at a competitor’s store, you can alert Nordstrom to have them match the price. Just be sure that the items are an exact match, meaning they need to be the same size and color.
There are a few limitations to this program. Nordstrom won’t price match discounts or flash sales, and it won’t match outlet prices.
18.) Nordstrom offers full-service spa treatments
Many department stores offer professional makeup services and styling, but Nordstrom takes things a step further by having full-service spas in some of their stores. Spa Nordstrom services include facials, massage, pedicures, and peels.
In addition to its in-store spa, Nordstrom sells a variety of take-home treatments for skincare and more. Spa products range from essential oil diffusers to facial toning devices, skin creams, hair masks, and moisturizers. If you find a product you love during a spa treatment, you can bring it home with you.
19.) You can predict what items will head to the Rack next
Items with a price ending in “$0.97” in the Nordstrom store are on their final markdown and will soon be taken off the shelves and shipped to the Rack outlet for potentially deeper discounts. If you have a Rack to shop at nearby, this can be a good way of anticipating what you might see there in the near future.
It’s also a good way to decide whether to scoop up an item on sale or wait to see if it gets any cheaper. Sales prices that don’t end in “$0.97” may be marked down further in the future. Of course, this is no guarantee, so you may want to just take home an item if you fall in love with it.
20.) “Clear the Rack” sales offer exceptionally deep discounts
The Rack has roughly a dozen “Clear the Rack” sales scheduled each year. These end-of-season sales offer some of the deepest discounts you’ll find on Nordstrom apparel. Since Rack offers clothing and accessories at deep discounts already, these sales can net you very good savings.
You’ll need to do your research in order to catch these sales though as the dates move from year to year. The best way to avoid missing any sales is to join the Nordstrom rewards club, which will also allow you to earn points toward future deals.
21.) Mike Rowe once criticized Nordstrom jeans for their “fake dirt” design
The Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans by PRPS caused a bit of a stir when Mike Rowe, host of the TV show “Dirty Jobs,” called them out on his Facebook page. The jeans were “heavily distressed,” featuring faded denim and brown stains meant to simulate mud or oil to portray an image of “rugged Americana.” These designer jeans retailed at Nordstrom in 2017 for 5.
According to Rowe, the jeans were symbolic of the country’s aversion and distaste for hard work. Love them or hate them, these distressed jeans were definitely a conversation starter.
22.) Nordstrom has hosted the Tony Awards four years in a row
Red carpet events are all about fashion, and Nordstrom knows that hosting an event is a great way to stir up excitement about its designer products. That’s why 2018 marked the fourth year for Nordstrom hosting the Tony Awards Red Carpet show.
The Tony Awards are the biggest reward show for musicals and represent a huge annual Broadway event. The Red Carpet show gives a great opportunity to new fashions, and it acts as good marketing for Nordstrom while lending some support to the theatre world.