BIG STORE, BIG SHOULDERS
NORDSTROM ANCHORS A HUGE NEW SHOPPING COMPLEX ON CHICAGO’S BIGGEST RETAIL CORRIDOR.
Byline: Nancy Brumback
CHICAGO — The new Nordstrom has altered the landscape of Michigan Avenue.
While the banner is not new to the metropolitan area — Nordstrom has three units already in the suburbs of Oak Brook, Skokie and Schaumburg — this downtown unit, opened Sept. 22, stands as its most significant door, in a prime spot on the retail spine of the city that is already home to luxury brand chains like Gucci, Burberry and Chanel. The new store is also going head-to-head with not one, but two downtown Marshall Field’s. Nordstrom has been hunting for a site on the Magnificent Mile for years, and this new store — at 271,000 square feet and four stories, the largest since the Seattle-based chain opened in its hometown Seattle two years ago — is part of a massive, nine-block North Bridge development on the southern end of the Avenue being developed by the John Buck Co. It includes an adjoining four-story mall of specialty shops, several major hotels and other retail locations and restaurants. (Retailers and vendors at the October market can walk a few blocks east from the Merchandise Mart for a first-hand look at the complex.)
The new Nordstrom is aiming at a younger, hipper consumer, with two new lines for women called Caslon and Halogen, and two new areas in the beauty department: L’Art du Parfum, a high-end “parfumerie” area, and the Wellness Center, which features products that promote mental as well as physical comfort.
It also wields new merchandising tacks, including mirrored vanity tables in the accessories area and comfortable armchairs scattered throughout the apparel areas.
“We hope the store has a really big impact” on Chicago retailing, said Pete Nordstrom, president of the full-line stores group. “Chicago is a good market for us, and we’re pleased with the way customers have responded.”
Neil Stern, a partner with McMillan/Doolittle, a Chicago retail consultant, estimated the new Nordstrom store “should do in excess of $100 million.”
Nordstrom declined to give a specific sales figure projection, but said: “It has the potential to be one of our top-performing stores, and we have several stores that do over $100 million.”
Traffic at first might drop slightly at the chain’s three suburban units, said Bob Middlemas, executive vice president for Nordstrom’s Central States region, but he added that he doesn’t expect that to last.
Middlemas predicted that the new store would primarily attract downtown residents and the tourist trade. The latter is no small business; just under half of all sales receipts on Michigan Avenue are from out-of-state shoppers, he said.
The presence of Nordstrom and the adjacent mall creates a strong retail magnet for traffic at the southern end of Michigan.
Technically, the store is not on Michigan Avenue, but is set back a block. The Michigan Avenue entrance, which will include Nordstrom identification, is actually to the Shops at North Bridge, where glass storefronts house four levels of shops along a 200-foot curving corridor that leads to Nordstrom entrances on all four levels.
The first-level shops, which opened in September, include A|X Armani Exchange, Benetton, Boss Hugo Boss, CD Peacock jewelers, Erwin Pearl jewelers, Femme de Carriere women’s apparel, Oilily women’s apparel and Sephora cosmetics.
The Shops covers 112,000 square feet, which is about 88% leased, according to Amy Curran, a leasing executive with developer John Buck Co.
Three of the first-level shops have additional entrances on Michigan Avenue: Erwin Pearl jewelers, Oilily for women, and Boss Hugo Boss, in a 6900-square-foot location that wraps around the 1,200-square-foot Oilily store.
A|X Armani Exchange opens in a 7,000-square-foot first-level location, and Sephora cosmetics takes 5,000 square feet on that level. A 5,000-square-foot Tommy Bahama store is scheduled to open on the second level in early November. (See related story, page 38.) Other stores opening this month include Ann Taylor Loft, Benetton 012 and Lucky Brand Dungarees.
The fourth floor will feature six restaurants, and the third floor will house a number of children’s shops, including a Lego Imagination Center. The entire complex is topped with a luxury hotel, Le Meridien Chicago, opening next spring.
The Nordstrom features light marble flooring throughout, with carpeting and hardwood flooring accents in selling areas. An open, central escalator area is topped by clerestory windows. A second major entrance to the store is at Grand and Wabash Avenues, where a two-story atrium and escalator lead up to the main floor.
As shoppers enter the main floor from the mall entrance, there is a massive women’s shoe department to the left, taking almost half of the first floor. That department, plus men’s and children’s shoe departments, offers customers more than 150,000 pairs of shoes.
To the right, past an espresso bar, is the cosmetics area. The new parfumerie is housed in an alcove of the department, set off by pink velvet curtains, with perfumes, bottles and artisan pieces for the vanity displayed on lighted glass shelving.
New in this store’s cosmetics area is a Wellness Center with candles, fountains and products from Doctor Perricone and Osmotics. Other lines are Sprayology oral mood enhancing sprays, ColorScience makeup, Nature’s Own herbal remedies, and Canyon Spa spa and treatment products featured at the Canyon Ranch Spa. The main cosmetics section includes numerous “play areas” where customers can try various lines, including a Lipstick Bar testing area with lipsticks grouped by shade rather than by vendor.
The remainder of the left side of the store is devoted to accessories-jewelry, fine jewelry, handbags, accessories and hosiery. Nordstrom has added new, mirrored vanity tables in accessories, where customers can sit and try on hats, scarves and other items.
At the rear of the first floor is Faconnable Femme, a shop featuring the French firm’s women’s sportswear line. Nordstrom recently signed an agreement to purchase Faconnable; it is the line’s only retailer in the U.S.
On all floors, displays in the central aisle feature the most-recent looks in nearby departments. Similar, smaller “trend areas” are sprinkled within the departments. Large screens in the elevator wells feature a changing slide show of the latest fashions.
The third floor is the main women’s apparel location, divided visually and by merchandise lines into contemporary looks on the right from the mall entrance and traditional looks on the left. The chain’s couture collection is centered on the rear wall.
The traditional side features wood paneling and shelving on the walls and on freestanding display fixtures, along with carpeting and hardwood flooring. Merchandise is displayed on wooden tables and suede benches, and comfortable, traditional upholstered seating is available throughout the area.
In contrast, the contemporary side features painted walls, which can be changed to reflect the season’s color palette, speckled black-and-white flooring with colorful area rugs, contemporary seating and chrome, red and gray metal fixtures, including large display tables with roll-out bins underneath for extra merchandise.
Nordstrom’s new Halogen contemporary sportswear brand and BCBG’s exclusive line for Nordstrom get separate shops.
On the fourth floor, the Brass Plum junior department is to the left of the mall entrance, while women’s activewear is to the right. Nike activewear is featured in a wall display section and freestanding fixtures in front of that wall.
The lingerie department, accented with cream-colored netting draping columns and walls, is adjacent to activewear; then comes Encore, the women’s size department.
Beyond Brass Plum is the Petite Focus department. The fourth floor also features a cafe.
Since Michigan Avenue features a huge amount of tourist traffic, this Nordstrom store carries souvenir, Nordstrom-related cosmetic items and accessories aimed at the tourist trade, including travel bags showcasing some of Chicago’s famous attractions, four Estee Lauder compact designs and a Trish McEvoy Michigan Avenue Girl compact.