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Nordstrom Launches Canadian E-Commerce Site After Shutting All Stores Amid Coronavirus [Analysis]

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After temporarily closing its stores in Canada and the US earlier this month, Seattle-based Nordstrom has quietly launched its Canadian Nordstrom.ca ecommerce website as part of an effort to grow its sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The new website features a vast assortment of product that includes notable luxury brands also carried at retailers in Canada that include Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, and Saks Fifth Avenue, which will lead to increased competition for online sales.

Nordstrom opened its first full-line Canadian store at CF Chinook Centre in Calgary in September of 2014, and subsequently opened five more stores in the Vancouver, Ottawa, and Toronto markets. The retailer also opened six Nordstrom Rack stores in Canada and a seventh was set to open near Vancouver in April. Nordstrom’s transactional ecommerce site comes more than five and a half years after entering the market and some analysts have criticized the retailer for taking so long.

We reported earlier this month that Nordstrom had shut all of its stores in Canada, including the six full-line stores as well as Nordstrom Rack locations. The closings had initially been planned for two weeks. Last week, Nordstrom announced that it was extending its closures for at least another week through April 5, though given the spread of the pandemic it’s unlikely that stores will open anytime soon.

SCREENSHOT OF NORDSTROM.CA
SCREENSHOT OF NORDSTROM.CA

Nordstrom is hoping that its new Canadian ecommerce site will give the company a boost of sales in Canada — its US site is said to be responsible for about a third of the company’s overall sales. The Canadian website is especially critical now that Nordstrom’s stores have closed. At the same time, online consumer spending in Canada is said to be substantially down as consumers take a wait-and-see approach to the situation. Job layoffs and stock market declines have led to a decrease in wealth for many households and as many are working from home and self-isolating, fashion purchases have also been put on hold.

Prior to the mass shutdown of stores in Canada, Nordstrom had planned to ramp up its market strategy with a focus on Toronto. Included would have been “shared inventory and access to services” such as alterations, express services, and same-day pickup or next-day delivery both at Nordstrom’s full-line stores as well as its Nordstrom Rack locations. “Order pickup is our most profitable transaction.

This represents a meaningful opportunity to increase convenience for customers during the holidays and at a lower cost for us,” said CEO Erik Nordstrom. The retailer expanded the market strategy last year into the New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Dallas markets with considerable success which led to plans to expand the initiative further into the Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, Seattle, and Toronto markets. The 10 focused markets were said to account for more than half of the company’s sales.

NORDSTROM AT YORKDALE SHOPPING CENTRE. PHOTO: DRI-DESIGN

In Toronto, Nordstrom operates a 230,000-square-foot flagship store at CF Toronto Eaton Centre as well as a designer-heavy 200,000-square-foot unit at Yorkdale Shopping Centre and a smaller 140,000-square-foot store at CF Sherway Gardens. Nordstrom also operates Nordstrom Rack stores in the Greater Toronto Area in downtown Toronto at 1 Bloor Street East as well as at Vaughan Mills and at Heartland Town Centre.

Nordstrom’s new Canadian ecommerce website features free standard shipping and returns, as well as duty-free purchases in Canadian currency. The website says that due to the increased order volumes and the impact of COVID-19, it may take longer than usual for orders to arrive. The website also states that store and curb-side pickup has been halted temporarily amid the pandemic.

Standard shipping on Nordstrom.ca is free for Canadians. For deliveries within two business days, a $20 charge is implemented and for next day deliveries, the cost is $28.

NORDSTROM AT CF CHINOOK CENTRE. PHOTO: CANADIAN BUSINESS

Nordstrom’s Canadian website features categories that include ‘Designer’, ‘Women’, ‘Men’, ‘Kids’, ‘Home’, and ‘Beauty & Fragrance’. The product assortment appears to be extensive. The women’s category includes clothing, footwear, accessories, beauty and fragrance, as well as designer fashions. The men’s offerings include clothing, shoes, accessories, designer goods, and grooming/cologne. The kid’s section of the website includes fashions for girls and boys such as clothing and footwear, as well as baby items and trams and other ‘essentials’. The home and gifts section of the website includes an offering of bedding, home decor, and items for the tabletop and kitchen.

The designer offerings on Nordstrom’s Canadian website are so expansive that it’s almost shocking. Thousands of items from many of the world’s leading luxury names are featured on the site such as Akris, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Balmain, Brunello Cucinelli, Burberry, Chloé, Givenchy, Gucci, Loewe, Moncler, Oscar de la Renta, Thom Browne, Valentino, Versace, and many others. We compared prices to Holt Renfrew’s online shopping site and prices appear to be the same for the same products.

Nordstrom’s new Canadian website will thus compete with that of Holt Renfrew, which last year expanded its online designer offerings after considerable delay. Nordstrom will also compete in the menswear space with Harry Rosen, which has one of the country’s leading online transactional websites for a fashion retailer. Various other retailers including Hudson’s Bay and La Maison Simons also feature expansive online offerings for Canadian consumers. Many other retailers in Canada could see a dent in online sales if people gravitate to Nordstrom’s new Canadian ecommerce site.

NORDSTROM AT SHERWAY GARDENS. PHOTO: NORDSTROM

Saks Fifth Avenue, which opened its first Canadian stores in Toronto in February of 2016, hasn’t yet launched a dedicated Canadian ecommerce site. Canadians can purchase from the US website and have items shipped to Canada, though it appears that duties may have to be paid. There’s also a lag time in terms of receiving deliveries that could take as long as 12 days for standard shipping. The US Saks Fifth Avenue site has an expansive assortment of designer brands and categories that has made it popular south of the border.

Given the vast assortment of merchandise now on Nordstrom’s new Canadian ecommerce site, locals may choose to shop and have product delivered and, at some point in the future, may choose to pick up purchases in stores. This could lead to an enhanced relevancy for the Nordstrom brand in Canada that could result in a symbiotic relationship that could boost sales both in its stores (when they reopen) as well as online.

That boost could give Nordstrom an increased competitive advantage in the Canadian market amid a rivalry from major players such as Hudson’s Bay, Holt Renfrew, Harry Rosen, and others, further increasing competition at a challenging time in the industry generally.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider and President/CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton, and consultant to the Retail Council of Canada. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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