Nordstrom moved one step closer to finding its first Manhattan location on Wednesday by hiring the Madison Retail Group, a retail real estate consulting and brokerage firm, to expedite the search.
The retailer has been besieged by landlords and brokers pushing locations and now intends to be more methodical in its quest for a Manhattan flagship.
"This is our most complicated real estate decision ever, for a number of factors," Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising, told WWD.
For one, moving into Manhattan will be Nordstrom's most costly real estate decision. "It's expensive, but there's also huge volume potential and a host of ancillary issues," including the brand exposure a Manhattan presence provides, and vendor concerns.
"We want to give ourselves the best chance to have great information," Nordstrom said. "It's a big decision. We want to do it right. We needed an objective way to assess the market and all the opportunities there."
Madison Retail, based in New York City, will provide local expertise on demographics and shopping patterns, and will screen sites. Other brokers and landlords will now go through Madison Retail if they want to propose a location. Several real estate firms were interviewed by Nordstrom.
Aside from a few downtown locations in the U.S., such as in San Francisco and Seattle, Nordstrom said his company's experience in site selection has been primarily in malls.
The Seattle company has already examined properties in Manhattan.
Sources said the Penn Station area, Madison Avenue in the Fifties, lower Manhattan and the Columbus Circle vicinity were among the areas probed; specifically, the Pennsylvania Hotel near Penn Station, a property owned by Vornado; an office building on the southwest corner of 58th Street and Madison Avenue; 200 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron area, and the corner of 42nd Street at Sixth Avenue.
Nordstrom also has to consider locations where vendors would be most inclined to sell to the chain. A move to the Upper East Side or Midtown could raise concerns with designers who already sell to Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue.
"No doubt there will be some issues when it comes to distribution," Nordstrom said. "Where we locate will be a huge factor, but it's hard to predict. No one will give you a straight answer and you don't know for sure until you announce [where] you are opening a store."
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