By  on June 11, 2014

Nordstrom Inc. has extended the responsibilities of Tricia Smith, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s apparel to include the designer, juniors and kids categories.

The move reflects Nordstrom’s desire to sharpen its designer strategy and pump up the business across different categories, as well as to strengthen the team with talent already on board.

“We are just trying to add to our collective strategic leadership around the designer business. Tricia is a really good leader,” Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising, told WWD. “We all work together collectively on the designer initiative and agenda.”

He said a key objective is to present designer labels in “a much more purposeful and aligned way. It’s such a high-touch business. Relationships with vendors are such a key element.” It’s also about maintaining “one strategic view of how we are managing women’s apparel from end to end, juniors to designer,” Nordstrom said.

“Tricia is a proven leader who will work well with Jennifer Wheeler, Jeffrey Kalinsky, and me, to ensure the designer business’ unique and critically important strategic position within our company,” Nordstrom said, adding that he will continue to remain highly involved in the designer sector.

Kalinsky opted to shift gears last December, becoming vice president and designer fashion director after serving as executive vice president of designer merchandising for eight-and-a-half years. He now focuses part of his time on projects outside Nordstrom including operating his two namesake stores, Jeffrey New York and Jeffrey in Atlanta, which Nordstrom bought in 2005. Nordstrom said Kalinsky has moved into more of an advisory role.

Wheeler continues as vice president and corporate merchandise manager of women’s designer apparel.

To further the designer business across all categories, Smith will also be working with Jennifer Jackson Brown, corporate merchandise manager of juniors/kids who also supports the Savvy and Topshop teams, as well as the following executive vice presidents/gmms: Scott Meden, shoes; Margaret Myers, accessories and women’s specialized divisions; David Witman, men’s, and Gemma Lionello, cosmetics.

Nordstrom’s women’s business took a turn for the better in the fourth quarter of 2012. “Generally, the women’s business was underperforming for several years. Since Tricia has been on the job, it instantly improved,” Nordstrom said. Other factors were the addition of Topshop, remerchandising Savvy areas that Topshop sits next to; relocating some brands, such as Joie and Marc by Marc Jacobs, to other parts of the women’s floor, and enhancing the Fashion Rewards program to simplify and juice up the benefits.

Women’s, depending on the category, is performing on or above the average for the company overall, Nordstrom noted, singling out the contemporary, bridge and Topshop areas as among the best areas, including such brands as Eileen Fisher and Theory and “that whole range of offer.”

Nordstrom officials previously said they intend to pump up the best performing national brands with greater “breadth and depth” to ease the navigation. While Nordstrom organizes its women’s areas with names like Savvy and Individualist, sometimes customers don’t readily recognize what the names stand for. For that reason, Nordstrom explained, “It’s important to elevate brand names to navigate our offer.”

Women’s apparel last year accounted for 31 percent of Nordstrom’s $12 billion in volume; shoes accounted for 23 percent; men’s, 16 percent; women’s accessories, 14 percent; cosmetics, 11 percent; kids’ apparel, 3 percent, and other, 2 percent.

Nordstrom operates 117 full-price stores and 151 Nordstrom Rack stores, and continues to strive to be identified with younger, hipper fashion and distance itself from a perception of being too traditional and not trendy enough.

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