"These are character-building times," said Blake Nordstrom, president of the 159-store retailer, of the company's change in fortunes and a situation seen throughout the industry. For the first quarter, Nordstrom's same-store sales fell 6.5 percent. Last year, same-store sales increased 3.9 percent to a record high of $8.8 billion. This year, the company forecast sales to be flat to a 2 percent decline, according to its annual report.
But although many of its peers are trimming their expansion plans, opening new stores is still on the retailer's agenda. "We are sensitive not to pull back," Nordstrom told the audience of about 400 in Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony and near the 107-year-old company's flagship.
In the next five years, the company, which has 105 full-line stores, plans to add or relocate 31 full-line stores and remodel 29 others. Nineteen affected locations already have been announced, including stores set for next year in New Jersey's Cherry Hill Mall; Northshore Mall in Peabody, Mass.; Kenwood Towne Centre in Cincinnati, and Summerlin Centre in Las Vegas.
Of the stores announced through 2012, none in Manhattan is on the list, although the company is still in the market for the right location in fashion retail's U.S. heartland.
"There were some rumors last year that we were close...but we are not close at all," said Nordstrom, explaining how the company isn't just interested in a New York location as a "billboard" to advertise its brand. "We'd like to make money if we go there," he said, while noting, "It's the number-one market in the country we are not in right now."
To further build business, Nordstrom also said the company is looking at ways to woo consumers identified as doggedly into fashion trends and who spend twice as much as other consumers, but who shop at several stores, including Nordstrom. "Our goal is to make Nordstrom her first choice," he said.