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[9 comments]

Nordstrom cousins change places in chain's executive suite

May 23, 2014

Here's something you don't see every day. Nordstrom announced earlier this week that Erik and Jamie Nordstrom, cousins and members of the company's executive team, would be swapping jobs.

Erik Nordstrom, formerly president of stores, will now be running Nordstrom Direct. Jamie Nordstrom, formerly president of Nordstrom Direct, will take over as president of stores.

"Customers don't value channels, they value experiences, and our entire team is focused on creating innovative and relevant customer experiences," said Jamie Nordstrom, in a statement. "We believe that by making this change we can better support our team in taking an even more integrated approach in how we serve customers."

"Our challenge is to act like one Nordstrom," added Erik Nordstrom. "As we work to further leverage our capabilities across Nordstrom stores and Nordstrom.com in what today is a growing $10 billion regular price business, we believe this move will help us meet that goal."

According to a company press release, Erik Nordstrom was named president of stores in 2000. His cousin Jamie is credited for his role in the development of Nordstrom's singular inventory platform. He was named president of Nordstrom Direct in 2005.

On the company's recent earnings call, Blake Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom, Inc., said, "We continue to focus on the execution of our customer strategy with our in-store or online, full price of off-price. At its core, it's about providing a superior customer experience with our investments and efforts directed toward one Nordstrom approach, that creates synergies and leverages shared assets and capabilities across all channels."

FINANCIALS:     [NYSE:JWN] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

What benefit do you think Nordstrom derives from switching top executives around? Do you think other retailers would benefit from a similar action?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How much do you think Nordstrom will be helped or hurt from Erik and Jamie Nordstrom switching jobs?

Comments:

Having executives truly understand the issues faced by other leadership positions in a company is always a good idea. But it should be done with some caution.

Issues arise when executives are "dipped" into positions for short period of time. Too many times this results in their believing they understand the roles, etc., but their superficial knowledge causes them to draw incorrect conclusions and make poor decisions.

I am aware of several chains that use this approach correctly and all have benefited from it.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

I think this is an excellent idea. Yeah, there's always the issue of what you know well and what you're good at, and for things where there are regulatory requirements, like in Finance or HR, that might not be such a good idea, but you don't get to the executive level by being narrowly focused, and I think a lot of retailers could benefit from having executives walk each others' shoes for a mile or two. If "the executive team" is going to be the owner of the customer experience, then they each individually need as wide a view of that experience as they can get.

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Nikki Baird, Managing Partner, RSR Research

A deeper bench at the executive level who better understand the different sales channels and how they should be integrated to complement one another. Absolutely agree with this statement:

"Customers don't value channels, they value experiences, and our entire team is focused on creating innovative and relevant customer experiences," said Jamie Nordstrom, in a statement. "We believe that by making this change we can better support our team in taking an even more integrated approach in how we serve customers."

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Bill Davis, Director, MB&G Consulting

Switching top executives around gives more executives a broader horizon for understanding the company's business. There is a family history (and a bank vault) to protect for the Nordstrom family. They are working to maximum the likelihood of continuing and effective leadership and thereby future success. And the affected executives are wedded to Nordstrom.

Other retailers can benefit from similar action but they need to be more circumspect. They are dealing with transferable employees and that impacts on the structuring of any such plan. But doing it is better than avoiding it.

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Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

The part that I missed on first blush is that the leader of the direct business is swapping with the leader of the stores' business. That's a big deal and a frankly clever idea.

Rather than create an "omni-channel" executive, Nordstrom is allowing execs to understand how the other half lives. That will do more to improve the cross-channel experience than any corporate overlay. It doesn't hurt that the two execs are related and [hopefully] inclined to cooperate more and compete less.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

Role swaps such as this are great and should be done throughout organizations whether they be retail or not. They challenge leaders to learn the entire business not just their own particular silos.

They are best done by partnership rather than swap and abandonment. They need not be long term assignments, yet long enough to gain full exposure to the business area. They are great mentoring opportunities, as well as offering fresh eyes to any area which can be valuable from what was once an observer that is now a leader.

While the benefits are all intangible, they are certainly valuable in the effort of creating a cohesive and engaged organization.

'Scanner'

I find the question amusing: no disrespect to either of the Nordstrom clan, but is switching two family members much of a change? Obviously they've had different specific experiences, and may well have different personalities and styles as well - which presumably is the basis for seeking applicability to other retailers - but I can't free myself of the belief that their sharing the same last name overrides all other factors.

'notcom'

This seems to be a familial issue that is being played out in the boardroom. It is hard to believe that for over 9 years each of these individuals had the skills to run 2 entirely different divisions, and then would switch these overnight....Whatever happened to skill alignment to job function and performance? Why aren't there cross sets of skills employed as part of these positions and why aren't there other individuals in these management slots whose last names are not Nordstrom?

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Kai Clarke, President, Kowa Optimed, Inc.

Both of these cousins have been leading their respective parts for some time, and have obviously proven themselves. The switch will allow them to truly understand, and hopefully help, a complimentary part of the whole. That may be able to result in a synergy that will benefit and drive the over-all company to a better position.

I think this is most possible when we are referring to members of one family who hopefully will realize that over-all success is the desired end, and that the individual success of EACH will benefit them but MORE IMPORTANTLY will benefit Nordstrom.

Attempting this with individuals of an organization (any other organization) who have their own egos, desires and concerns, and who may have less focus on the whole, would be difficult. These are cousins, led by a cousin/brother, and that is almost unique in todays landscape. This may not be feasible at another company and this attempt at another company would possibly be over-shadowed by need, or drive, only for personal success.

I think this type of move has the best possibility of benefit and success for all parties when you have people who are truly interested in the whole company, and certainly, members of one family affords the most possibility of this working.

William Passodelis, associate, ML Co.

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