Jamie Nordstrom on the Tourist Rebound in NYC, the Future of Cities + Bringing Asos to The Grove

With U.S. cities in the midst of great change and challenge, Jamie Nordstrom says he’s learning something new every day.

“Here we are in June 2022, and I don’t think we have any more certainty about what’s going to happen than we did a year ago,” Nordstrom Inc.’s chief stores officer said. “There’s a spectrum of cities that have come back faster [as far as pandemic recovery] than others. New York has come back strong, and then there are cities that have not. What we have found is that if we execute well – and I think this has borne out so far this year — we’re going to get a The Heart and Sole of the Footwear Industry.”

The executive sat down with FN following his presentation last week at the Global Department Store Summit. The retailer hosted the event with IGDS, the largest association for department stores.

Nordstrom told the international crowd that the retailer continues to stand out thanks to its laser focus on customer service and a liberal return policy that “is our single best selling tool.” And the Rack chain is the primary vehicle for attracting new shoppers, Nordstrom said.

The company’s recipe is working: Nordstrom reported last month that its total company net sales increased 18.7% to $3.5 billion in Q1 of 2022, compared with the same period in fiscal 2021.

In the first quarter, core categories including men’s and women’s apparel, shoes and designer had the strongest growth against 2021 as customers stepped out again in full force for social events, travel and return to office.

Here, Nordstrom talks about how the retailer is banking on a rebound in tourism to drive excitement in New York and the innovative new Asos space in Los Angeles.

As tourism picks back up in New York, are you seeing more international shoppers in store? 

“I was there about a month ago, and there were a lot of foreign speaking customers in the stores. Hopefully now, as we look to the back half of the year, that tourism continues to build. We’re excited to start serving that customer in a way that we always thought would be there. There was a bit of a hiatus. [We got] the opportunity to grow the business with the local New York customer in a more organic way than we would have [because of COVID]. That’s going to serve us well over time.”

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“The New York customer both gives us license and expects us — and any retailer in New York — to deliver something new in a way you don’t see most other places. It’s not true that trends start in New York. In our business, it’s just as often that they start in Southern California and head East. But the New York customer demands a unique offering. In our home space there, for example, you’ve got a lot of brands you can’t find very many places at all. That’s been a good lesson for us. We carry the big brands — but there’s those categories like home where there’s potential to offer super unique brands.”

Asos, Nordstrom, The Grove
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What’s your overall outlook on New York and other big cities that are important to Nordstrom? 

“Long term, we’re bullish on cities for a lot of reasons. Young people like to live in cities, they like to be around other young people. What does that mean for the next six, 12, 18 months? I don’t know. But we have to do what we’re good at, which is running a great store. We’re happy with where our downtown stores are performance-wise. Traffic patterns change for sure. Now that the world’s opened up, people need clothes that are going to be seen by other people. Whether they go to the office one day a week or one day a month, I don’t think it matters. They’re going out, they’re going to events, they’re traveling— we need to serve them.”

Across the country in California, you opened the first dedicated Asos in-store space at The Grove in Los Angeles in May. What’s the significance of the location? 

JN: “The Grove has always punched its weight as a destination for influencers. When I look over my kids’ shoulders and they’re on TikTok, so much of it is at The Grove. When we thought about how we made the introduction of Asos, that was the place to do it. We’ve had that store open for about a month now, and it’s been great. There was no prototype Asos store — we’re making it up. We gave our team license to make something cool, and they really did. So far, the customer is responding really well.”

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