Friends, employees, vendors and competitors took to social media and other outlets to express their surprise and condolences and to remember Nordstrom, who was 58.
Nordstrom was remembered for both his kindness and his leadership style, honed over more than 40 years in the business founded by his great-grandfather, John W. Nordstrom, with a shoe store in 1901.
He started in the stockroom in the early Seventies and was selling in the firm’s downtown Seattle store by 1975 before jumping to other in-store positions, buying and regional management.
Nordstrom became president in 2000 and then started to share the title with his brothers Pete and Erik, who were both named copresidents in 2015.
In addition to working with his brothers on growth opportunities, Nordstrom supported the Nordstrom Rack brand — including Rack stores and the nordstromrack.com and HauteLook operations — along with other corporate functions such as finance, technology, credit, legal and human resources.
Pete and Erik will continue as copresidents of the business and Wall Street seemed comfortable with that. Shares of the retailer held their own Thursday, closing down just 1 percent to $47 in what was a very bad day for the market. (An Apple warning of weak sales in China spooked already shaky investors, sending stocks down sharply and leaving the Dow Jones Industrial Average with a decline of 660.02 points, or 2.8 percent, to 22,686.22.)
But in the worlds of fashion and retail, the loss was clearly being felt on a personal level.
Designer Kenneth Cole took to Twitter to describe Nordstrom as “one of our industry’s truest leaders and finest individuals” and said he would be “missed by all who had the privilege to know and work with him.”
Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer of the National Retail Federation, said: “In retail, we have been blessed with thoughtful visionaries. They impact all of those who are touched by the industry — whether through employment, through giving back to communities they serve or through a personal and heartfelt belief that leadership is not a right, but an opportunity to make a positive and lasting impact for current and future generations of those that follow. Blake Nordstrom embodied that commitment. He was a servant leader and a friend to all who knew him. He will be greatly missed.”
Nordstrom is survived by his wife, Molly; his son and daughter; his two brothers; his father, Bruce, and other family members. Services are yet to be set.