The investment is big and must pay off.
Nordstrom’s 367,000-square-foot Manhattan flagship, an assemblage of sites, is the retailer’s most complicated, anticipated and costliest construction project — now north of $500 million, according to sources.
“We are keenly aware of what’s at stake here. We’ve got to be really good,” said Pete Nordstrom, copresident of the Seattle-based Nordstrom Inc. “New York is probably the most dynamic and best shopping opportunity in the world. We are thrilled to be coming.”
The Nordstrom flagship, located on West 57th Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway, will be the retailer’s first full-line department store in the city, consisting of a 320,000-square-foot women’s store, expected to open fall 2019, and a separate 47,000-square-foot men’s store, now scheduled for a spring 2018 opening. The men’s store opens ahead of the women’s store because it’s retrofitting an existing space, while the women’s store is being built from the ground up.
How does Nordstrom envision the flagship overall? “It’s got to be the best Nordstrom store. That means having a unique breadth, from Topshop to Céline or Valentino,” Nordstrom said, adding that it will be a “personalized, smart store” with multiple food offerings including restaurants, cafés and possibly a bar, and easy to navigate floor plates with great ceiling heights.
It’s also got to be the retailer’s biggest volume generator, in light of its costs, though Nordstrom declined to offer a projection.
Providing a progress report on the flagship, Nordstrom said the company is “full blown” into discussions with vendors. “They have a keen interest in space and adjacencies, particularly the luxury guys, since business has been difficult in the last couple of years. We had to go out there and tell our story and sell our story a little bit. By and large, people have been very receptive to it.”
The luxury component is “locked and loaded” and already about 90 percent determined in the men’s store, and “pretty far down the road” in the women’s store, Nordstrom said, though he noted it was premature to mention any brands being carried or how the categories will be laid out.
The heart of Nordstrom’s Manhattan flagship is 225 West 57th Street. It will have two levels below ground and five levels above at the base of Extell Development Co.’s Central Park Tower, which will be the world’s tallest residential building at 1,550 feet high, with a spire reaching another 200 feet.
The other sites comprising the Nordstrom flagship are:
• 1776 Broadway, where 20,000 square feet over four levels is being leased from ULM Holding Corp. It’s at the intersection of West 57th Street and Broadway.
• 5 Columbus Circle, where 8,000 square feet is being leased from 1790 Broadway Associates. It’s on the southeast side of 58th Street and Broadway.
• 3 Columbus Circle, the Nordstrom’s men store, where 47,000 square feet over three levels is being leased from SL Green and The Moinian Group. It runs all along the west side of Broadway from 57th to 58th Streets.
Nordstrom said construction on the flagship is expected to be finished before Extell’s residential tower is done. “Our hope and goal is even if some scaffolding is around, even if there is more construction, it’s not going to be something intrusive on the shopping,” Nordstrom said.
He said the women’s and men’s stores, facing each other on opposite sides of Broadway, will be “visually connected” with lots of glass and some consistency in design. The combined spaces will have a long, unbroken footprint extending 200 feet on 57th Street to Broadway, 200 feet along the Broadway block between 57th and 58th Streets, and another 274 feet along 58th Street. There will be a main entrance on 57th Street and others at 1780 Broadway between 57th and 58th Streets, on 58th Street, and another at 5 Columbus Circle.
“The exciting thing for us is that we get a chance to have the newest department store in the marketplace. Hopefully that means it’s the most relevant one where we are able to apply new learnings, particularly with technology as an enabler for service,” Nordstrom said. The flagship will provide fully functioning Wi-Fi, unlike existing stores where there can be issues. “They weren’t designed for it,” Nordstrom said. “Many stores are built like fortresses which makes it difficult to be connected.” In New York, “we have a chance to build with ways to be better connected.”
The seven-level women’s store will be among Nordstrom’s most vertical configurations, providing some unique challenges, like getting shoppers to explore all levels, and some unique opportunities. “In almost every floor of the women’s tower, we will have some kind of food offering,” Nordstrom said, whether it’s a café, a restaurant or a bar.
“Most of our stores are built on two or three levels,” Nordstrom explained. “This actually allows us to segment our businesses and create zones that are naturally complementary to each other. The floor plates will be pretty easy to navigate and are going to feel like they’re on a more human scale, more accessible. While the floor plates aren’t huge, they will have great ceiling heights, on the main floor nearly 21 feet high, and the smallest ceiling height is 12 feet. That’s darn good. It’s going to feel pretty cool and expansive.
“Maybe ceilings are something I notice more than others because I am really tall. I don’t need to mention other stores, but often I can touch their ceilings. They’re not very high. It feels kind of claustrophobic. A lot of buildings weren’t [originally] built as retail stores and have ceilings rarely over nine feet.”
Having multiple levels has also enabled James Carpenter Design Associates of New York to create dramatic undulating parabolic waves of glass, top to bottom, on the 57th and 58th Street sides. The facades will draw natural light in and project the activity and energy of the interior to the street. There will also be an entrance to the women’s store at 1780 Broadway, where the historic facade will be restored.
Manhattan is considered Nordstrom’s sixth flagship and second largest store in the 123-unit department store chain. The downtown Seattle flagship, at 383,000 square feet, is the largest Nordstrom store. The San Francisco Centre, Michigan Avenue Chicago, Toronto Eaton Centre and Vancouver locations are also considered flagships.
“A flagship for us is defined in a handful of ways — primarily it’s the market it services, its location, the brand impression it can make because it serves so many people including tourists, and the breadth of what we have in there,” Nordstrom said.
Nordstrom’s Manhattan flagship will be bigger than the 230,000-square-foot Barneys New York on Madison Avenue, or the 250,000-square-foot Bergdorf Goodman women’s store on Fifth Avenue. Yet it’s far smaller than other Manhattan flagships. Saks Fifth Avenue is 646,000 square feet; Lord & Taylor, 650,000 square feet; Bloomingdale’s, 859,000 square feet, and Macy’s Herald Square, more than one million square feet.
After considering many locations around town for more than a decade, Nordstrom picked West 57th Street because it’s in a pocket of the city filled with affluent residents and tourists yet relatively devoid of fashion retailing.
Creating a full-line flagship in a single building for both men’s and women’s merchandise, Nordstrom said, “would have been our initial preference. We’ve always done it that way. We believe in the synergy of [male and female] customers shopping together. But we have studied flagship stores around the world and there are plenty of examples of where men’s exists separately,” Nordstrom said, citing Printemps in Paris and Bergdorf Goodman. Saks Fifth Avenue in Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan also operates separate women’s and men’s stores. Men’s apparel, shoes and grooming is a $2 billion business at the $14.5 billion Nordstrom.
Securing more space than originally expected means Nordstrom has a better shot at securing the labels it wants for Manhattan though the competition will be beefing up their own assortments and services when Nordstrom opens. It also gives Nordstrom a better shot at generating larger revenues and impressing consumers, designers, suppliers and competitors from around the world.
“We didn’t start out thinking we would operate a men’s store separate from the women’s,” Nordstrom said. “It was not originally our plan, but opportunistically, things came our way,” meaning property across Broadway from the women’s store.
“This is an expensive project,” Nordstrom said. “We might as well get it going. There is a lot we can learn by opening up the men’s store first.”