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Nordstrom Expands its ‘Market Strategy’ in Canada with Toronto Initiative at a Challenging Time

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Upscale Seattle-based large-format multi-brand retailer Nordstrom is expanding its ‘market strategy’ this year with a focus on its top 20 markets, including Toronto. The retailer announced this week that it is offering customers in the Toronto area greater and faster access to its inventory and services as part of an effort to gain market share amid intense competition as well as an extended lockdown. 

Customers are now able to shop an expanded selection of merchandise across all Nordstrom stores in the Toronto area for next-day pickup or free two-day shipping. Customers are also able to pick up online orders at Nordstrom Rack stores. Nordstrom has yet to roll out its market strategy into other parts of Canada that also have Nordstrom locations. 

A total of six Nordstrom-owned stores operate in the Greater Toronto Area and are offering curbside pickup as part of the initiative. That includes three full-line stores at CF Toronto Eaton Centre, Yorkdale and CF Sherway Gardens in Toronto, as well as three off-price Nordstrom Rack stores at 1 Bloor Street East in Toronto as well as at Vaughan Mills in Vaughan and  at Heartland Town Centre in Mississauga. 

Customers that visit nordstrom.ca can click a product category and on the left-hand side, click the “free delivery” filter and indicate “pickup tomorrow” for all the available options across stores within the market to increase available product selection.

The market strategy allows Nordstrom’s customers to shop and engage with the retailer when, where and how they want, regardless of whether it’s in-store, online, at a full Nordstrom store or at a Nordstrom Rack location. The omnichannel strategy aims to offer convenience in an effort to gain market share at a challenging time in the retail industry. Personal stylists can answer questions on fashion or beauty online including providing digital styling experiences and advice — it’s a good move considering that Ontario is in lockdown into mid June. 

The retailer’s market strategy first launched in Los Angeles in 2018 as Nordstrom sought to grow further in its already largest market which has a high saturation of upscale retailers. New York City came soon after and was followed by the Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco markets. Last year Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Toronto and Washington DC were added to the list, and in March of this year, Atlanta, Austin, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, Portland, San Diego and West Palm Beach were added to Nordstrom’s market strategy. These 20 markets make up about 70% of Nordstrom’s customers and 75% of sales. 

In the United States, Nordstrom has taken its localization strategy a step further with five standalone Nordstrom Local storefronts in the Los Angeles area and two in New York City. The Nordstrom Local storefronts are less than 3,000 square feet each typically and offer services such as alterations, styling, online order collection and product returns. It’s not yet known if Nordstrom Local will be rolled out into any Canadian cities. 

NORDSTROM RACK, VAUGHAN MILLS. PHOTO: NORDSTROM RACK

The Vancouver market is home to one large Nordstrom flagship store. Nordstrom also has full-line stores in Calgary and Ottawa as well as seven Nordstrom Rack locations in suburban Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto.

Nordstrom says that its broader market strategy generates “deeper and more meaningful insights about our customers to enable improved personalization and inventory planning.” The retailer says that this allows it to attract new customers that it has not historically prioritized while at the same time not losing sight of its existing customers. “It will also take us further in creating a truly seamless and interconnected experience, while extending our service leadership to create meaningful and personal connections with our customers,” Nordstrom said in a statement. 

This week Nordstrom reported that its first quarter net sales were down 13% relative to the same period in 2019. The retailer reported a wider than expected loss for the period. Nordstrom management said that elevated labor and shipping costs, in addition to supply chain constraints in the apparel industry, are creating continued pressure on its business. Total revenue was USD $3.01 billion, higher than USD $2.9 billion that was expected. Nordstrom reported a USD $166 million loss for the quarter, compared to USD $521 million a year earlier. Nordstrom’s digital sales rose 23% from 2020 levels, and were up 28% compared with the same period in 2019. Nordstrom said its e-commerce business represented 46% of total sales in the latest quarter.

‘Pent up demand’ is expected into the summer as consumers are able to go out again in cities across the country. Nordstrom’s annual Anniversary Sale is timed for the second quarter of this year with a date to be announced. 

Closed Nordstrom, Samsung, UNIQLO – Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Nordstrom will be shifting its retail operations in order to meet the demands of some of its in-store brands by expanding its concession strategy. In February, the retailer announced that it would expand its partner concession relationships from about 5% of its business to about 30%. More leased spaces for designer brands in Nordstrom stores are expected as a result. In Canada, Nordstrom houses concessions for several brands including Christian Louboutin in Vancouver, Delvaux at Yorkdale in Toronto and Gucci at CF Toronto Eaton Centre.

In Canada, Nordstrom is competing vigorously with both homegrown and international retailers for market share. Hudson’s Bay, which operates 87 stores in Canada currently, has been beefing up its own brand offerings including a replacement for Topshop which will be exiting its stores in the fall. Hudson’s Bay and Nordstrom both offer an assortment of designer brands in the mid and higher price-points, including some luxury brands. Holt Renfrew and Saks Fifth Avenue also operate stores in Canada and compete with Nordstrom’s top-priced offerings. Holt Renfrew in particular has gone after some of the brands that Nordstrom began rolling out into Canada in 2015 including Spanish luxury brand Loewe which is now carried in several locations. 

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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