SEATTLE — Erik Nordstrom can't resist sharing a letter from a customer.
"She wants me to promise her that we will never get into the coupon game. She feels a loyalty to the company," he said during an interview in his office.
Erik's mission as president of stores is to maintain the distinctive Nordstrom tone and store experience, and one way to do that is by avoiding the price-promoting epidemic in retailing. "We don't rely on promotions, be it one-day sales, coupons or ‘friends of friends' sales. We think our regular pricing has to have integrity."
Nordstrom runs only three sales a year, he said — two clearances and the anniversary sale in July, which is a pre-fall season sale that lasts for 17 days. The kickoff of the anniversary sale, which is always a Friday in the middle of July, is Nordstrom's biggest volume day, even bigger than Black Friday. "The first day of the sale is driven by our selling people calling their customers. We have customers who plan their summer vacations around our pre-season sale," he said.
The event takes on a life of its own; some stores stage fashion shows or trivia contests, Erik said, to drive traffic.
Due to its regular-pricing posture through most of the year, Nordstrom's quarterly revenue count tends to be more even than the highs and lows of other stores.
Aside from the lack of price promoting or discounting, Nordstrom sets itself apart in other ways. A lot of it is very visible to customers.
"You can see things in our stores," Erik said. "The product density is less. It's about wider aisles and being more open...The overarching theme that served us well is really about getting in touch with our roots as a fashion specialty store."
Unlike Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue, "in general, there are no vendor shops, outside designer," which helps Nordstrom project its own personality.
The retailer also is getting sharper. Recent openings, including a store in the Gardens mall in West Palm Beach, Fla., open about two months, exhibit a greater demarcation between departments, which are organized by lifestyle, such as Savvy for contemporary and Brass Plum for junior. "There's increased definition of fixturing, carpeting, back-wall displays, even dressing rooms." There's also "less merchandise on display, and we turn it faster."
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