The luxury brand and the retailer forged a new partnership, which resulted in a leased Vuitton department at Nordstrom's store on Chicago's Michigan Avenue. The 2,000-square-foot shop, which was unveiled last week, is located on the main floor across from the designer shoe department and offers a mix of Vuitton's leather goods, including handbags and luggage, alongside accessories such as ties, sunglasses and an extensive selection of women's shoes.
The Vuitton deal fits nicely into Nordstrom's philosophy to enhance its luxury designer business across all categories, particularly driven in recent years by Jeffrey Kalinsky, Nordstrom's executive vice president of designer merchandising.
For Vuitton, Nordstrom represents the first new department store partnership in 13 years. The luxury brand last became partners with Bloomingdale's in 1995. It launched leased departments with Macy's in 1982, Neiman Marcus in 1948 and Saks Fifth Avenue in 1925. Vuitton's first department store partnership was in 1898 with Wanamaker's in Philadelphia and New York.
The leased department within Nordstrom will be Vuitton's fifth location in the Chicago area, and marks the company's 123rd store in North America. According to Daniel Lalonde, president and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton North America, Vuitton's U.S. stores are evenly split between freestanding retail units and leased areas inside department stores, which are fully operated by the leather goods company.
The partnership with Nordstrom came about organically, Lalonde said.
"We constantly look at areas where we think there is an opportunity to put another Louis Vuitton store," he said. "There are many areas where we still see much potential for a store presence. We have a freestanding flagship...on Michigan Avenue, as well as a leased department with Saks there, and stores in Oakbrook and Northbrook. We thought here could have been another presence downtown."
Nordstrom's president of merchandising Pete Nordstrom said the retailer typically runs all the departments itself, and besides a Christian Dior accessories boutique at Nordstrom in the Westfield Topanga shopping center in suburban Canoga Park, Calif., does not have any other leased departments. The timing, however, seemed right to connect with the leather goods house in such a leased nature."It's new for us, and it's special," Nordstrom said. "We want to try to send a signal that this represents the best of what customers can buy anywhere from anybody and who better than Vuitton to send that signal. It's such a terrific brand."
While no further leased departments are planned at Nordstrom in the near future, Lalonde said, "We are always looking for opportunities in markets in North America, whether they are freestanding stores or leased departments. We want to start with this one and see how it goes, and if there are opportunities that make sense for both companies, we will definitely explore them."
Nordstrom added, "We are not looking for one-offs, but for ways to enhance our standing with customers across the country. We'd like to try and find ways to identify opportunities that work well for us, and for Vuitton. I believe that as time goes by, we will find new places to collaborate on."
Both Lalonde and Nordstrom declined to give sales projections for the department.
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