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Nordstrom's Big Apple bite to shake up NYC

The Nordstrom Facebook fan page has been all aflutter on news that the department store chain is finally going to take a big bite of the Big Apple.“It's about damn time,” wrote one New Yorker, on news Nordstrom will be opening its first Manhattan store in 2018.It’s an usual display of retail love from hardened Manhattanites who are more inclined to start campaigns keeping retailers out of th
Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising, and Erik Nordstrom, president of stores, during a news conference in New York announcing the new store.
Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising, and Erik Nordstrom, president of stores, during a news conference in New York announcing the new store.Courtesy of Nordstrom / Today

The Nordstrom Facebook fan page has been all aflutter on news that the department store chain is finally going to take a big bite of the Big Apple.

“It's about damn time,” wrote one New Yorker, on news Nordstrom will be opening its first Manhattan store in 2018.

It’s an usual display of retail love from hardened Manhattanites who are more inclined to start campaigns keeping retailers out of their backyards, most recently Wal-Mart

But we’re talking about Nordstrom, the Seattle-based chain known for its insanely exhaustive shoe department and insanely attentive sales people.

“These people are the best operators in the affordable luxury department store business,” said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a retail consultancy and investment-banking firm headquartered in New York.

New Yorkers have been clamoring for a Nordstrom for years, said company spokeswoman Brooke White. And the decision to finally set the wheels in motion has been 15 years in the making, she said, adding, “It was quite a complicated process to find an ideal space.”

Nordstrom has already dipped its little toe in the New York market, operating a Faconnable boutique in the city until it sold the unit in 2007. It also opened a discount shoe outlet called Rack in 2010 in Union Square, and a charitable retail operation known as Treasure & Bond in Soho last year. “It was a way to give back and also a way to learn about serving New Yorkers,” White said.

With its new location, the retailer is now going all in, hiring at least 1,000 workers in 2018. The new store will be located on a 40,000-square-foot site on 57th Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, in a location that once housed the original Hard Rock Cafe.

“It makes perfect sense that Nordstrom – one of the premier names in retailing – would want a flagship store in New York, the world's premier city for retailing,” said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement. “This is very exciting news for New Yorkers and the millions of tourists who come to our city to shop each year.”

But not everyone is happy.

“Everybody will start to worry and raise their game,” said Davidowitz, referring to the department stores in the city, including Saks and Bloomingdale's, which he said have become complacent in recent years because there hasn’t been a new large competitor for a long time.

“Bloomingdale’s is going to say, ‘holy @!$%#, we better get our service better'," he said. "'We better raise our game because a giant has arrived in town.’”

Bloomingdale's is owned by Macy's Inc. The retailer's CEO Terry Lundgren did not immediately return a request for comment.

It's bad news for other retailers in the area, Davidowitz said, but great news for consumers who have seen chains such as Bonwit Teller and B. Altman & Co. shutter and never replaced.

“I really think Nordstrom is going to go gangbusters,” he said. “New Yorkers are very discriminating and they know what’s good. Nordstrom is on the mark in fashion, service and aesthetics. They are just very good.”

And given that shoes are one of the hottest fashion sellers these days, he said, Nordstrom “is going to shake things up.”

Nordstrom started out as a shoe retailer, tracing its first shoe shop in downtown Seattle back to 1901. Shoe merchants nationwide came to see Nordstrom as a model of how to sell shoes the right way, with over-the-top service and few promotions.

So what will Nordstrom’s Manhattan shoe connection be like? White said it’s too early to know exact dimensions but as with all of the retailer’s shoe havens, expect tens of thousands of pairs to choose from.

There will be five shoe departments, including women’s, active wear and juniors; designer, men’s and kids, she explained. And the store is going to stay true to its few-sales mantra with only three price blowouts yearly.

At $735 for an Oscar de la Renta satin pump at Nordstrom, there will probably be a lot of bargain-hunting New Yorkers waiting in line.

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