Winning the retail race

For the past few years, the demise of traditional shopping has been a concern for many in the retail industry. With the advent of the web, people are flocking to e-commerce sites that offer home delivery with the touch of a few buttons (and a credit card). No more has this been evident than the large scale department store. Except for one, that is.

Founded in 1901 as a shoe store in Seattle, Nordstrom is a still a leading fashion retailer, operating 323 full-priced and 194 Nordstrom Rack stores (not to mention their respective e-commerce sites, two Jeffrey boutiques, Trunk Club and HauteLook).

When it came time to expand, they looked north of the border. The Canadian economy was doing well – even in today’s uncertain times – and it felt like a wise decision to slowly increase its footprint beyond the US. (There have been others that tried a “go big or go home” approach that didn’t fare so well – their names won’t be mentioned.)

Its first location on the west coast was a success, but it was time to service Canada’s biggest metropolis: the Greater Toronto Area.

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A 220,000 square-foot, three-level location in the busy Toronto Eaton Centre replaced the former home of Eaton’s (once known as one the country’s higher end department stores, and until recently, Sears) and a brand new 199,000 square-foot, three-level store was situated in a mall expansion of Yorkdale Shopping Centre.

Offering a curated selection of merchandise from many of the best brands, with price points from accessible to luxury, each location researched the needs of the city and edited their buys; more outerwear layers, less ball gowns.

Walking through each location, the shopper experiences airy interiors (due to large windows and transoms that let in natural light), broad sightlines, flexible floorplans (with movable carpets), polished finishes, and appreciates the large investment in art and sculpture, punctuated throughout the departments.

Other bonuses include food and beverage options on each floor (customers don’t have to feel hungry or dehydrated while shopping), a concierge desk, personal stylists, private shopping suites, alterations and personalizations, cell phone charging stations, same-day delivery, staff that can speak in 30+ languages, and of course, Nordstrom’s legendary customer service.

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But how did they kick off their welcome to Canada’s biggest city? By celebrating it, of course.

Nordstrom kicked off the openings of its new CF Toronto Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Shopping Centre stores with two in-store galas, with guests (2,000 at the Eaton Centre and 1,600 at Yorkdale) being among the first to preview the new stores, while sipping on cocktails and doing a little shopping.

Because they are known for their wares, two private tented fashion shows (simultaneously streamed to the public throughout Dundas Square) at the Eaton Centre location had 46 models walk the runway in 94 looks from top designers (including Alexander Wang, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Marchesa, Lanvin, Loewe, Sonia Rykiel and Stella McCartney) while three pop-up fashion shows used the escalators as the runway at Yorkdale.

For those who were looking for a bit less fashion and a little more fun(k), celebrity DJs Russell Peters, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Hannah Bronfman, and Brendan Fallis played throughout the night while top models Hilary Rhoda and Petra Nemcova (Eaton Centre), Chanel Iman and Lindsey Ellingson (Yorkdale) and designers Vejas Kruszewski (Eaton Centre), Aurora James of Brother Vellies, and Steven Tai (Yorkdale) mingled throughout the crowd of local scenesters. If there was a night – or two – to dress up to the nines, this was it.

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Being underwritten by Nordstrom, the galas raised $270,000 (Eaton Centre) and $220,000+ (Yorkdale) for local charity organizations – Covenant House Toronto, Humber River Hospital Foundation, Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO), SickKids Foundation, St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, and Women’s College Hospital Foundation.

Even after the successful events, the stores have been consistently busy. The buzz hasn’t died down after their first year in Canada, proving that they’re doing something right. With locations in Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, and three in the Greater Toronto Area, Nordstrom is taking a measured approach to its North American expansion, proving that slow and steady wins the – retail – race.

About The Author

Steven Carver
International Editor

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