Step into any Nordstrom store and it’s hard not to feel a sense of luxury and elegance. From designer clothing to high-end cosmetics, it’s clear that this is no ordinary retail establishment. But did you know that Nordstrom started as a humble shoe store in Seattle? That’s right – from its early beginnings in 1901 to the fashion empire it is today, the story of Nordstrom is one of persistence, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to customer service. Join us on a journey through time as we explore how this beloved brand went from selling shoes to becoming a household name in fashion retail.
History of Nordstrom
Nordstrom was founded in 1901 as a shoe store in Seattle, Washington by John W. Nordstrom and Carl F. Wallin, two Swedish immigrants who came to the United States in search of their fortunes. They opened their first store, Wallin & Nordstrom, on Fourth and Pike in Seattle. The business grew and, in 1923, the partners added a second store in Seattle’s University District.
In 1928, John retired and sold his share of the company to his sons Everett and Elmer. Carl Wallin retired a year later and also sold his share to the Nordstrom sons. John’s third son, Lloyd, joined the team in 1933.
Over the next 120 years, Nordstrom grew into a fashion empire, with stores across the United States and an online presence that reaches customers around the world. Today, Nordstrom is one of the leading retailers of designer apparel, shoes, and accessories, and is a beloved destination for shoppers looking for the latest trends and best customer service.
In 1963, Nordstrom expanded into women’s wear department store business with the acquisition of Seattle-based retailer Best Apparel Company. The following year, Nordstrom opened its first full-line store in Tacoma, Washington. Men’s and children’s wear were added in 1966.
In 1968, the three Nordstrom brothers handed the company over to the third generation: Everett’s son Bruce, Elmer’s sons James and John, Lloyd’s son-in-law Jack, and family friend Bob Bender.
The company went public in 1971, formally renamed to Nordstrom Inc. and soon became one of the most valuable retailers on the stock market. Nordstrom continued to grow throughout the 1970s and 1980s, opening new stores across the United States. In the 1970s, Nordstrom was an early adopter of computerized inventory management, which allowed it to keep better track of its merchandise and respond quickly to customer demand.
Two years later, annual sales surpassed $100 million, and the company was recognized as the largest-volume fashion specialty store on the West Coast. In 1973, the first Nordstrom Rack opened as a clearance center in the basement of the downtown Seattle store.
By 1975, Nordstrom had expanded into Alaska. Three years later the company entered the competitive California market. And in 1988, it opened its first East Coast store in Virginia.
Expansion continued across the U.S. throughout the 1990s and into the next decade.
In 1995, the third generation of Nordstrom family members retired as co-chairmen, but retained their positions on the Board of Directors. In May 2006, Bruce Nordstrom retired from his position as chairman of the Board.
In the 1980s, Nordstrom began experimenting with off-price retailing with the opening of its first Nordstrom Rack store. In 1988, Nordstrom made history by acquiring Faegre & Benson, a Minneapolis-based department store chain – making it the largest acquisition ever made by a retailer at that time.
In 1998, Nordstrom became a leader in e-commerce, launching its first website.
Nordstrom’s Strategic Acquisitions
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Nordstrom has a long history of strategic acquisitions, dating back to its very first purchase in 1901. The company has acquired several well-known brands over the years, including Façonnable, Jeffrey Bilhuber, and Best Apparel. Nordstrom has also been active in acquiring smaller, niche brands that complement its existing offerings.
From 2000 to 2007, the company owned Façonnable, an upscale European apparel collection for men and women. In 2005, the company purchased a majority interest in Jeffrey, two luxury fashion boutiques in Atlanta and New York City.
In 2011, Nordstrom acquired Los Angeles-based HauteLook, and also purchased minority stakes in kids’ wear brand Peek. In 2012, Nordstrom became the only major U.S. retailer to sell a broad assortment from the renowned British fashion brands Topshop and Topman. In 2014, the company acquired Trunk Club, a personalized clothing service that serves customers online at TrunkClub.com and in its seven clubhouses.
From 2011 to 2013, Nordstrom operated Treasure & Bond, an independent charity-concept store in Manhattan that donated 100% of its profits to New York children’s charities and raised more than $200,000. In 2014, Nordstrom launched its private-label Treasure & Bond brand, and in the spirit of the store’s give-back model, announced it would donate a percentage of profits from sales to youth-empowerment organizations.
In September 2014, Nordstrom opened its first Canada store at Chinook Centre in Calgary. Nordstrom furthered its expansion in Canada in 2015, 2016 and 2017 with the opening of full-line stores in Ottawa, British Columbia and Toronto. The company has plans to open Nordstrom Rack stores in Canada starting in 2018.
In 2015, Nordstrom also opened a full-line store at The Mall of San Juan in Puerto Rico.
Looking ahead, Nordstrom is expected to continue its acquisitive growth strategy. The company has significant cash on hand and is well-positioned to make additional purchases. Nordstrom’s focus on customer experience and willingness to experiment with new business models makes it an attractive target for other companies looking to grow through acquisition.
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Today, Pete and Erik Nordstrom serve as co-presidents of Nordstrom, Inc., and manage the company along with the executive team. From humble beginnings as a small shoe store, Nordstrom has grown into one of the most iconic names in fashion. Nordstrom is recognized as a leading fashion retailer with more than 350 Nordstrom, Nordstrom Local and Nordstrom Rack locations.
The company also operates an online store and recently launched a mobile app. Nordstrom is still headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Nordstrom offers an extensive selection of apparel, shoes, accessories, and beauty products from top brands like Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Nike. In addition to its retail locations, Nordstrom operates Nordstrom Rack off-price stores.