By and  on October 25, 2006

NEW YORK — Nordstrom is getting more serious about establishing a store in Manhattan as part of the chain's program to elevate its fashion profile and sustain expansion.

The $7.7 billion chain is being bombarded by brokers and developers pushing properties and has checked out some high-profile locations, although nothing has been signed. Nordstrom is looking for a location of 180,000 to 250,000 square feet.

"Almost every week, someone has a different site or plan for us," said Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising for the Seattle-based chain. "There are a good half-dozen that are worth exploring. We are looking at sites. Our focus is really trying to get something in Manhattan."

Nordstrom was interviewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday night, where he and his executive team, surrounded by a slew of young designers, celebrated the launch of "In Vogue," a book about the history of Vogue published by Rizzoli. Nordstrom co-sponsored the party.

The executive wouldn't elaborate on all the sites the retailer is viewing but did say the Penn Station area, downtown around the Battery Park area, and Trump Tower are among those being examined. "We looked at Lord & Taylor, too," Nordstrom said. "We haven't ruled anything out."

Nordstrom said the company is "creative and open-minded to locations.

"We don't have to be between Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman," Nordstrom said. "There are other places where we could probably be successful."

Donald Trump said he's got 125,000 square feet available for Nordstrom, or some other potential tenant, with Asprey and Avon recently closing their locations at Trump Tower. Trump noted that Nordstrom could have frontage extending along 75 percent of the block between 57th and 56th Streets on Fifth Avenue, providing excellent exposure in the high-traffic neighborhood. Tiffany & Co. occupies the other 25 percent on the 57th Street side of Fifth Avenue. Trump also said he could extend the retail space up a few levels to six, adding more space, but prefers not to.

"They love the space, but we are talking to so many different people," other than Nordstrom, Trump said.Nordstrom's vision at this point doesn't seem to match Trump's. Nordstrom said he ideally would like 225,000 to 250,000 square feet for a Manhattan store, so that could rule out Trump Tower. "It all depends on the location and floor plate — 180,000 square feet on three floors might be right. We want to open a store that speaks to the full breadth of what Nordstrom can be."

It seems Nordstrom has upped his requirements. Last spring, he said a Manhattan site would have to have at least 100,000 square feet in an area that's proven fertile for retailing and that the company would be flexible in its format for Manhattan, perhaps creating a site that's more vertical than most Nordstroms. "We don't want to be a pioneer," he said at that time.

The company does show some flexibility and in Naples, Fla., plans a store with about 80,000 square feet for a fall 2008 opening, though Nordstrom has acknowledged that Naples was a unique situation because 80,000 square feet was all the company could get. Smaller formats are a possibility for certain markets, such as Los Angeles, where there are already big Nordstrom stores.

The Lord & Taylor site also could be a long shot. Nordstrom did express concerns about the location, which is on Fifth Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets. It's about 10 blocks south of Fifth Avenue's fashion retail enclave and not a primary destination for an upscale fashion crowd. The owners of the Lord & Taylor flagship property are considering downsizing the 650,000-square-foot site for possibly a smaller L&T store or converting the entire site to residential and commercial use. Or they could decide to put Nordstrom in there. No decision about the site by L&T's new owner, NRDC Equity Partners, has been announced.

Nordstrom also agreed that lower Manhattan poses some challenges, particularly since it doesn't have as much weekend shopping traffic as SoHo or Midtown. Department stores require strong weekend traffic to survive.

Real estate exec­­utives indicated that Vor­nado has develop­ment rights across from Penn Station and could assemble a number of properties to accommodate Nordstrom. "Thirty-fourth Street would be a great location because of the traffic," said Laura Pomerantz, principal of PBS Realty Advisors.The problem is that many of the sites available in good retail locations are too small for what Nordstrom wants. "They really need a good ground-floor plate," Pomerantz said.

Vornado also has property on the southeast corner of Broadway and Broome Street, being redeveloped for residential and some retail use that, according to Pomerantz, has about 75,000 above ground and 35,000 below.

The Meatpacking District is another possibility. There is space available on 14th Street and Ninth Avenue, but only about 62,000 square feet over three floors, Pomerantz said.

In addition, a variance is required to open a large site and build upward in some areas, such as SoHo. The chain did examine the Shops at Columbus Center, where ultimately the economics and fit with the developer weren't right.

Breaking into Manhattan is Nordstrom's logical next step since it has ringed the city with stores, including units that operate in Roosevelt Field shopping center in Garden City, Long Island; the Westchester Mall in White Plains, N.Y., and Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J. For years, Nordstrom was lukewarm about opening a store in Manhattan because it is reluctant to deal with the high costs and hassles of opening in the city's center. The retailer even passed over some interesting sites, which one source said included 23rd Street near Sixth Avenue, which went to Home Depot. But this year, Nordstrom appears to have made an attitude adjustment.

The retailer's increasing interest in being part of New York's fashion scene was apparent at Monday night's party. About 300 people, including "In Vogue" co-author Alberto Oliva, Ivanka Trump, Diane von Furstenberg, Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, Tory Burch, Zani Gugelmann, Justin Giunta from Subversive Jewelry, Ashleigh Verrier, Peter Som, Andrew Rosen, Damon Dash and Rachel Roy, attended. Nordstrom's top merchant and marketing executives were all there, including executive vice presidents Loretta Soffe, women's; Jack Minuk, shoes; Margaret Myers, accessories; Laurie Black, cosmetics; marketing vice president Terri Rose and vice president of designer apparel Jennifer Wheeler.

"Sometimes, it's a tough thing for us to be based in Seattle," Nordstrom acknowledged. "We feel a little out of the loop sometimes in certain things." But he stressed that Nordstrom's presence will be increasingly felt in New York. Recently, Nordstrom sponsored the CFDA Awards and the "Anglomania" exhibit at the Costume Institute at the Met.At the "In Vogue" party, a silent auction of prints of iconic Vogue images raised $90,000 for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. "I have always loved that moment when Shalom Harlow and Amber Valletta were reigning, particularly one of Shalom jumping up in this pink dress," Thakoon Panichgul reminisced, before placing — and winning — a bid for an Annie Leibovitz photograph of a group of models. Phillip Lim, too, had his own favorite images from the magazine. "I loved Peter Lindbergh's cover with all the supermodels in leather outfits and biker caps," he said. "My past holiday collection was inspired by it." Doo-Ri Chung, however, looked further back in time for her favorite Vogue image. "There is quite a fantastic image of Martha Graham's ‘Lamentation,'" she said. "And it was jersey."

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