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Nordstrom Signs Pact to Test Interactive TV

OAKBROOK, Ill. -- Nordstrom Inc. said Tuesday it has signed an agreement with U.S. West, a regional telephone company, to test selling merchandise via interactive television this fall.<BR><BR>Nordstrom has already announced a pact with Bell Atlantic,...

OAKBROOK, Ill. — Nordstrom Inc. said Tuesday it has signed an agreement with U.S. West, a regional telephone company, to test selling merchandise via interactive television this fall.

Nordstrom has already announced a pact with Bell Atlantic, a phone company operating on the East Coast. U.S. West has operations in the Midwest and West, but the Nordstrom venture will be limited to the Midwest and will be done on a “very limited” scale, according to John Nordstrom, co-chairman, who told stockholders of the plans at the company’s annual meeting in the Oak Brook Hills Hotel Tuesday.

Nordstrom, who believes interactive shopping will be done on a mass basis in four to five years, said, “We will be providing the merchandise and the fulfillment.” The telephone company will provide the technologies.

Nordstrom’s test will take the form of a dedicated TV channel, and customers will be able to interact with Nordstrom salespeople. The company is exploring a number of alternatives, including a mall-type format that could include other retailers.

The Nordstrom channel will offer much of the same merchandise sold through its catalog, particularly moderate branded and private label women’s apparel, accessories and shoes.

“We don’t know whether it will be more fashion or more basics, but catalogs sell basics better than fashion,” Nordstrom said.

In other news, the company announced a Nordstrom Visa card rewarding high-spending customers with dividends of up to 5 percent on merchandise purchased at its stores. The card will have an annual fee of $30.

According to Bruce Nordstrom, co-chairman, the retailer decided to launch the Visa because sales on its store card had flattened.