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Nordstrom Details Canadian Plans

Karen McKibbin, president of Nordstrom Canada, said the first store will open in fall 2014 in Chinook Centre in Calgary.

TORONTO — Nordstrom Inc. has big plans for Canada.

This story first appeared in the June 7, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Revealing more details of the U.S. retailer’s plans for expansion north of the border, Karen McKibbin, president of Nordstrom Canada, said the first store will open in fall 2014 in Chinook Centre in Calgary. Eight to 10 stores are planned in Canada, including openings in Ottawa’s Rideau Centre and Vancouver’s Pacific Centre in 2015, followed by Toronto launches in 2016 at Sherway Gardens and Yorkdale Shopping Centre.

The company’s expansion will also include the opening of 15 off-price Nordstrom Rack stores across Canada, as well as the creation of a separate online site. The online component should make its debut with Nordstrom’s Ottawa opening in 2015.

“In today’s market you can’t have a great Web site and inferior store and vice versa. You have to have both. Anything less is outdated,” McKibbin said at Store Conference 2013 here.

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“We wanted to enter the Canadian market for years. The challenge was finding the right real estate,” said McKibbin, who started her career with Nordstrom in 1985 as a stock person. “Canadians are highly educated fashion customers, so we’re bringing the full Nordstrom experience to them. Canadians have no appetite for Nordstrom Lite.”

Excluding customers, particularly in terms of pricing, should also be a thing of the past, according to McKibbin.

“We build gorgeous stores, yet sometimes these beautiful stores cause people to hesitate and think that this might be too expensive for us. That’s not so,” said McKibbin.

As in the U.S., the 112-year-old specialty fashion retailer will feature a mix of price points and product to appeal to all Canadian consumers.

“We curate high-low — that’s our product mix. To have all that under one roof will be appreciated by Canadians,” said McKibbin.

Canadian consumers will see some differences in prices on certain products due to taxes, duties and tariff charges. “What that differential will mean we don’t know yet,” said McKibbin.

“We’ve yet to purchase one piece of merchandise for any of our stores. That’s more than a year out,” McKibbin explained. “But from what we’re learning from our vendors and distributors here in Canada, there will be a price differential on certain products.”

Nordstrom’s expansion plan includes the launch of a checkout app to allow customers to purchase items wherever they wish throughout its stores. Sales associates will also have mobile devices on hand to service customers more effectively.

Like their U.S. counterparts, Canadian staff will be trained to make customer service a memorable experience for consumers. They will also be encouraged to make decisions on the floor without going up the usual chain of command.

“There are no rule books here,” McKibbin told WWD after her presentation. “We empower people to make good decisions in real time. Some people aren’t comfortable with that, but our employees, from the sales team to the guy in housekeeping, must answer their own internal call to action to do what needs to be done and make sure our customers leave happy.”

Nordstrom Canada’s new leadership team will be hired in Calgary and then spend three months training with mentors in the company’s Seattle headquarters.

“This is going to be a Canadian store run by Canadians,” said McKibbin. “The Calgary store will create 300 new jobs for the community. Our new leaders will get the chance to mentor with talent in the States. If I was young and starting out again I’d find this exciting to be part of.”