By  on March 22, 2006

NEW YORK — Nordstrom wants to put a comprehensive designer offering in at least one store in each of its major markets, said Mike Koppel, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

The $7.7 billion Seattle-based chain's emerging designer strategy includes beefing up offerings across apparel, accessories and shoes to generate a "halo effect" that elevates the image of other departments, Koppel said at a Bank of America consumer conference here last week.

The plan will put Nordstrom in more direct competition with luxury rivals Nei­man Marcus, Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue.

"While we are not going to create an overly large designer presence, we believe in improving designer and insuring that in every major market we are in, we have at least one store with a very relevant offering," Koppel said.

Last year, Nordstrom bought Jeffrey, a retailer with two designer stores, in the Chelsea section of Manhattan and in Atlanta, that was owned by Jeffrey Kalinsky. He now works on designer strategy and unearthing new design talent for Nordstrom.

"The acquisition of Jeffrey has been a terrific help in allowing us to open doors," Koppel said.

More recently, Nordstrom opened a few units featuring a more sophisticated designer presentation with greater demarcation between brands. The store at NorthPark Center in Dallas, with boutique areas that will be replicated elsewhere in the 99-unit chain, offers clothing by Christian Lacroix, Monique Lhuillier and Oscar de la Renta. The adjacent Collectors sportswear area has shops-in-shops for Roberto Cavalli, Blumarine, Chloé and Donna Karan, among others. The Via C boutique carries younger collections such as Tracy Reese, Sass & Bide and See by Chloé.

Last year, women's was streamlined so that all women's apparel offerings were put under the supervision of a single general merchandise manager, Loretta Soffe, instead of four. "We think this structure [will lead to] a more coordinated execution and strategy, rather than having separate silos looking at it in their own way....The improved structure will allow us to take a much more strategic approach to how we execute in women's," Koppel said.

Lately, the firm has been on a roll, with strong sales results, though they are credited more to cosmetics, accessories, shoes and contemporary apparel offerings displayed in the Brass Plum, Savvy and t.b.d. departments than other women's areas.

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