Homeward Bound: How Nordstrom Boosts an Underplayed Business

·6 min read

Nordstrom Inc. is determined to expand offerings to shoppers and has squarely set its sights on bolstering the home side of its business.

The vision emerged Thursday evening when Nordstrom’s Manhattan flagship unveiled a home shop with merchandise focused on three “pillar” categories: kitchen and tabletop, home textiles and home decor.

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The Nordstrom Home shop is 5,520 square feet over two levels situated near the corner of Broadway and 57th Street. There are entrances from the street and inside on the second floor, with a staircase connecting the levels, creating a duplex-like store-within-a-store.

Great Jones-branded wallpaper lining the walls is a clue that Nordstrom has become the exclusive retailer of the brand’s cult cast-iron cookware. It’s one of several such partnerships Nordstrom has established with direct-to-consumer brands that previously never had a presence inside a brick-and-mortar store: Bearaby, which sells weighted blankets; Casper mattresses and bedding; Carraway ceramic cookware, and Open Spaces baskets, bins, racks and drawer dividers are among the d-to-c brands wholesaling for the first time via Nordstrom, exclusively.

Emerging brands displayed include Estelle Glassware, Otherland candles and Serax tableware. Established brands include Boll & Branch bath and bedding, Dyson vacuum cleaners, Staub cookware, Marimekko decor and proprietary brand Nordstrom Made.

A number of local New York City brands founded by women are displayed, among them Beverly’s, for kitchenware and tabletop, founded by Beverly Nguyen in lower Manhattan; Quiet Town, for shower curtains and textiles, founded by Lisa Fine in Brooklyn, and Thompson Street Studio, for quilts and pillows made from recycled fabrics, founded by Kiva Motnyk.

There are also gifts and novelty items — much of it targeting tourists — like coffee-table books, key chains, a Missoni cookbook and MoMA Design Store vases, bowls and even a self-watering wet planter.

The home space formerly housed a Nordstrom x Nike concept shop and revolving shops for brand “takeovers.” Before, home was on a lower level in less space where kids has expanded into. The Nike shop shifted to a lower women’s shoe floor.

Like other department stores, Nordstrom considers itself full-line. Yet with home, it really hasn’t been. Still, its home selection has grown over the past year and a half or so, but doesn’t sell big-ticket furniture, beds or major appliances, with the exception of some smaller, carry-out type of furniture and compact appliances.

“Fundamentally, home in department stores have grand and vast assortments. We are more curated,” said Olivia Kim, Nordstrom’s vice president of special projects and home. “It’s that must-have coffee maker. It’s very lifestyle,” said Kim. The home offering maintains the Nordstrom zeitgeist and relevancy to Nordstrom customers “by bringing an approachable design-driven point of view into their homes,” she said.

“We thoughtfully and purposely sought after independent small makers, established designers and renowned institutions rooted in the city itself to support local businesses,” said Kim, stressing the importance of connecting to local communities. Nordstrom 57th Street opened October 2019 about four months before COVID-19 forced stores to lock down. It’s striving to further build a clientele.

About a year ago, Kim added home to her responsibilities and brought in a team of six, including a director of home, buyers and assistant buyers, for the initiative.

Last February, Nordstrom revealed its “Closer to You” agenda for “widening the aperture,” involving a massive expansion of the digital assortment — 300,000 items to potentially 1.5 million within three to five years — and establishing new types of arrangements with brands, like drop shipping and even taking financial stakes in brands like it did with Asos. That would naturally include home products. The agenda also calls for injecting lower price offerings into Nordstrom Rack and finessing the market strategy, linking Nordstrom stores, Rack off-price stores, Nordstrom Local locations and a variety of services to deepen customer engagements.

Pre-COVID-19, Nordstrom started gradually building its home assortment, primarily sheets, towels, decor and cookware, according to Pete Nordstrom, president and chief brand officer. “We haven’t had a lot of authority in the area,” Pete said when Closer to You was announced. “We have all these other productive businesses, but we can layer on a lot more home selection without, for example, cutting our shoe offer. We are seeing it happen right now. If you go to some of our stores, you notice it already.”

<img class="wp-image-1234944401 size-full" src="https://wwd.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Nordstrom-Home_11_Connie-Zhou.jpg" alt="The Nordstrom Home shop inside the retailer’s Manhattan flagship. - Credit: CONNIE ZHOU" width="1024" height="683" srcset="https://wwd.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Nordstrom-Home_11_Connie-Zhou.jpg?w=2048 2500w, https://wwd.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Nordstrom-Home_11_Connie-Zhou.jpg?resize=150,100 150w, https://wwd.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Nordstrom-Home_11_Connie-Zhou.jpg?resize=300,200 300w" sizes="(min-width: 87.5rem) 1000px, (min-width: 78.75rem) 681px, (min-width: 48rem) 450px, (max-width: 48rem) 250px" />CONNIE ZHOU

One Nordstrom insider said 72 of Nordstrom’s 100 department stores carry home products, some more than others, though a Nordstrom spokesperson said, “This is not an accurate number, and it is one that we are currently evolving. A full Nordstrom Home experience is not currently planned for all doors, however all of our stores will have some expression of home items, especially at key moments like Holiday and Anniversary Sale.”

In certain locations, home is getting greater square footage by taking space from “outsized” departments, which could mean categories where business isn’t robust enough. In other locations, merchandise gets relocated to prominently present home, without downsizing anything. Nordstrom’s stores are designed for flexibility, so square footage can be added to or subtracted from categories and brands, depending on selling trends. Within the store fleet, there’s no other home set up like the 57th Street shop — 50 brands not previously carried were brought in bringing the total stock keeping unit count to 1,400 — though fixtures and many of the brands will be rolled out.

“I love creating environments for home,” said Kim. “It feels very personal. It is about the things that I might put in my home. That’s part of it, but there’s a unique Nordstrom point of view. It’s always with the customer in mind.”

Weighted blankets from Bearaby. - Credit: CONNIE ZHOU
Weighted blankets from Bearaby. - Credit: CONNIE ZHOU

CONNIE ZHOU

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