By  on September 16, 1994

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Nordstrom is out to conquer the Midwest.

In just a few years, sources say, sales in the region are growing at 18 to 22 percent annually, which has propelled Nordstrom stores here and in Bloomington, Minn., into the top five out of 77 units. That's fueling an aggressive expansion plan over the next two years.

At Nordstrom's annual meeting, held here in May, co-chairman James Nordstrom said the Midwest is the specialty-store chain's fastest-growing market. The Oakbrook store opened in 1991, and the Bloomington unit, in the Mall of America, opened in 1992.

Underlining its commitment to the region, the Seattle-based company will open its second major Chicago-area store at Old Orchard mall in Skokie, Ill., on Oct. 7. Industry sources estimate the 200,000 square-foot store will generate first-year revenues of $100 million.

The company is kicking off the opening with a gala fashion show and party for 2,500 at the store the night of Oct. 6.

"Nordstrom is experiencing a lot of success in Oakbrook and I expect them to generate strong sales in Old Orchard," said Rick Nelson, analyst with Duff and Phelps.

Nordstrom's 1993 earnings were up 2.8 percent to $140.4 million on sales of $3.59 billion, which was a gain of 4.9 percent. Its average sales per square foot are pushing $400, the highest in the industry.

Other recent and future Midwest expansion includes:

A Nordstrom Rack clearance store, which opened in Schaumburg, Ill., in March.

A regular-price unit in Schaumburg, slated for spring 1995.

A store in Indianapolis slated for fall 1995.

A store in Troy, Mich., slated for summer 1996.

While the Midwest is the fastest growing market, the chain is also continuing to sprout elsewhere in the country. An expanded unit in Portland, Ore., opened in August, and new stores are planned in California, Washington, New York State, New Jersey, Texas, Pennsylvania and Colorado over the next two years.

According to Bob Middlemas, vice president and general manager of Nordstrom's Midwest operations, there's no single reason for the store's success in the region. Rather, he attributes it to Nordstrom's philosophy -- an emphasis on customer service, deep inventories and a broad range of sizes -- which has been imported successfully to new markets.

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