By  on October 4, 2006

Nordstrom will unveil its most comprehensive collection of designer apparel and accessories on Friday in a 200,000-square-foot store at Westfield Topanga shopping center in suburban Canoga Park, Calif.The unit features designer shop-in-shops for Gucci and Chanel, both ready-to-wear and accessories, as well as Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino and a Dior handbag store."When you see the Topanga store, you say, ‘This isn't just a Seattle company,'" said Pete Nordstrom, head of merchandising for the retailer and great-grandson of founder John W. Nordstrom. "We really went for it. This is what we're capable of."Nordstrom relocated from a 155,000-square-foot space in the shopping center, as part of a $330 million renovation and expansion of the mall by its owner, the Westfield Group. The remaining 400,000 square feet of new retail space, featuring luxury stores such as Burberry and Furla, also will open on Friday. A Neiman Marcus store that has taken the old Nordstrom space is to open in 2008. "Our customer has really had a desire for the best the market has to offer," Nordstrom said. "We've had designer merchandise for [decades], but in the last five years, we've tried to become much more purposeful about our designer offerings, rather than let it happen it haphazardly ... with a great shoe offering in one store and a great accessory offering in another. A couple of years ago, we started being really purposeful."Central to the strategy is positioning one store in every major market to carry a full selection of designer merchandise: apparel, accessories and shoes. "It doesn't make sense that we would have a full designer offering in all stores ... It might even be difficult to sell," Nordstrom said. "If we did it, we'd probably dilute it. To do it well, you have to have synergy. It obviously has to be in response to the customer." Nordstrom, based in Seattle, operates 99 full-price stores. About one-quarter of the units carry the full designer selection, including locations in San Diego's Fashion Valley mall, downtown Seattle and on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The Topanga unit, located in the San Fernando Valley, 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles, was tapped for the designer treatment because of its robust sales."It's a very successful store for us, and over time, it became undersized," Nordstrom said. "Topanga represents what we can do and what we want to do."The store utilizes Nordstrom's trademark open floor plan, where customers can see across an entire level into every department. Gray carpet and marble floors give way to crisp, white walls and ceilings with recessed lighting.Handbags are in an expansive department featuring an elaborate system of white display pieces. The store's subdued color palette gives way to bold reds and purples in the Brass Plum dressing room, which features kitschy midcentury-inspired decor.The t.b.d. department, which specializes in premium denim brands such as Paige, Hudson and J. Brand, was redesigned for the Topanga store, adopting a dark, Gothic-inspired aesthetic. Prices range from $125 for a Karl Lagerfeld shell to $8,990 for a Valentino leather and suede trench.Half of Nordstrom's full-price locations carry designer merchandise in any quantity, and while "soft shops" — shop-in-shops without three hard walls — exist in most locations, "Topanga has by far the most hard shops," said Pamela Lopez Perret, fashion communications director. There is one hard shop, in Bellevue, Wash., and San Francisco, respectively, and two in Seattle. "We are continuing to add more designer hard shops moving forward," Perret said.The retailer will be integrating Gucci ready-to-wear and accessories hard shops into its downtown Seattle location, as well as Chanel ready-to-wear and accessories shops into the Mall of America store, in Bloomington, Minn., by the end of this year.The company doesn't break out square footage of the shops, but they are about the size of a typical studio apartment. Each design house dictates its own shop aesthetics. Most chose white walls with metal and glass accents and built-in shelving. The emphasis on designer merchandise is also evident in the store's sprawling via C. department, which stocks emerging designers such as Doo.Ri, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Dsquared2 and Jovovich-Hawk. Here, racks of diaphanous dresses and tops weave around Indonesian-inspired furnishings. The store's Couture division features evening gowns and separates by designers such as Azzaro, Lanvin and Vera Wang, while its Collector division features more established brands such as Blumarine, Chloé, Marni and Proenza Schouler.The Topanga store will influence the development of future locations, from both a merchandising and a construction perspective, said Deniz Anders, business public relations director."This is really our best-foot-forward store," she said. "For us, it's really about evolving with each store that opens ... Over the years, we've become much more efficient in building stores. Because of better inventory management, we don't need as much back room as we did before. In 2001, we began to build differently."The company declined to give projected sales figures, but Nordstrom said: "We're going to do a lot more business. We have more categories, and it's bigger.""We know our customer is here. We know she currently drives into Beverly Hills to shop," Anders said. "The renovation is an example of Westfield also feeling that way ... that we can be the fashion destination for the Valley."The new unit is one of the company's largest, as Nordstrom's "sweet spot" for square footage is between 140,000 and 170,000 square feet, Anders said. The last store of this size launched in Dallas' NorthPark Center mall last year, and the retailer is to open another 200,000-square-foot location in Oahu, Hawaii, in 2008.Although women's designer apparel dominates the store on every level, the location also features a sizable Brass Plum juniors division, adjacent to the Brass Plum shoes department (a new setup for the company, which previously has lined up Brass Plum shoes next to women's shoes). Other new elements include the Crib, a kid-friendly dressing room within the children's apparel department. Service amenities include a Spa Nordstrom Escape, a 140-seat Café Bistro restaurant and an Ebar coffee-and-espresso bar.

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