Nordstrom’s Local concept needs work

Discussion
Photo: The Bloc/Nordstrom
Aug 14, 2019
Patricia Vekich Waldron

I checked out the Bloc, a large mixed-use property in downtown Los Angeles (#DTLA), that once housed the Broadway Department Store offices and is now home to a Nordstrom Local.

Local, a hub for online order pickups and returns, is heavy on services and helpful staff but low on inventory. When this concept launched last year, some wondered how successful a store without merchandise for sale would be, especially given that this particular site is positioned between a Macy’s and a Uniqlo. The #DTLA Local offers online services (pickups and returns), personal stylists, dressing rooms to try on merchandise, an alterations station and a barber shop.

I have a few recommendations for making Local more relevant and visible to consumers: 

Wow walk-Ins

Unless one is in the know, browsers or shoppers will likely be disappointed (or confused) when they walk into Local. While associates were super welcoming to visitors, explaining the concept and engaging with walk-ins, the store could also benefit from better signage. Also, why not showcase new items, ensembles, sizes, etc., offer incentives or provide cool screens that would allow customers to immediately place an order?

Locals go Local

Of course, it’s easier to market to existing customers who can be targeted based on purchases, delivery address or location. Customers will absolutely find Local a convenient place to pick up and try on online orders, especially those who live or work downtown. There were a lot of packages ready for pickup during my visit. Local is also a great place to get garments (new purchases from Nordstrom, as well as other apparel) altered. 

To-go orders

Out-of-towners visiting the area, particularly brand-conscious international travelers, would really benefit from appointments or ordering in advance and having a ready-made dressing room, stylist and seamstress on-hand. Teaming with the surrounding hotels is a perfect way to raise awareness and attract high-value customers.

Like many malls, DTLA is reinventing itself with fun eateries, inviting spaces, entertainment and shopping. Local is another example of how Nordstrom continually innovates and advances their value proposition and caters to customers, keeping its brand relevant and viable.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think service-oriented “showrooms” shortchange customers, or is the limited scope of what they do understood by shoppers? What else do you think Nordstrom can do to make Local more engaging and successful?

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Braintrust
"Using the space to highlight new ranges and allowing ordering from kiosks or screens in-store is something that should have been part of the concept from day one!"
"Nordstrom is falling farther behind and it’s a stark contrast to Kohl’s and their continuing innovation focused on customers."
"The first thing that came to mind as I read the article (and the questions) was that Nordstrom has a reputation they don’t want tarnished."

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16 Comments on "Nordstrom’s Local concept needs work"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

A lot of these ideas are very sensible and underline how Nordstrom could make a lot more of its Local format. Using the space to highlight new ranges and allowing ordering from kiosks or screens in-store is something that should have been part of the concept from day one!

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Neil, great comments, I am with you. When I read that maybe there shouild be signs, and a need to explain what the store is as customers enter … that scares me. That certainly needs to be adjusted so the store generates an emotional desire for customers to get excited. How could Nordstrom overlook that? It’s always about putting the customer’s eyes on.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

The total lack for merchandise was a big surprise and disappointment. And the Local opened several hours later than the other stores, which I found surprising.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

I don’t think the showrooms are shortchanging customers, but I do believe there is a real risk of customers being confused when they get to the store and not fully realizing what Local was intended to do. The fact is, Local is essentially designed as an extension of Nordstrom’s main stores, not a replacement for them. Driving an abundance of shopper traffic to a Local location is not the point – the point of Local is to provide Nordstrom shoppers more convenient options for post-purchase services like pick-up, returns alternations, etc.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

Patricia’s points are well taken. I’ve found anecdotally that many shoppers think of Nordstrom Local simply as a BOPIS hub which has the effect of diminishing the premise. Nordstrom could dial down or shift expectations by focusing on the convenience aspects and owning “local” through B2B partnerships, as Patricia pointed out. Overall, showroom concepts can be a compelling component in retailers’ convenience arsenals but banking on them entirely is a risky and limiting strategy.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

I visited that location many times. I did not find them helpful but more often on their devices which took precedent over helping shoppers — often, they remained seated to answer questions. Tailors were more of a take-it-or-leave-it customer service and the barber was a two hour haircut. This concept makes a lot of buzz and is convenient for some things but as a way forward to cut loss of foot traffic in the bigger stores, it’s not much help.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Even Nordstrom isn’t immune from gaps in store execution and staff – they play even more critical role when there is no merchandise to distract or enchant shoppers!

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

This concept has multiple flaws if one is an OPS person at heart like I am. It is not a thrilling, exceptional experience. It is more like a UPS Store – convenient for drop off but not much to move the needle on sales. But I know they are trying to get a handle on all of their online returns in new ways.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

The first thing that came to mind as I read the article (and the questions) was that Nordstrom has a reputation they don’t want tarnished. Trying a new concept is always a bold move, and I can see how this concept has great opportunity for both the company and their customers. Whether it works or not (and hopefully it will) is not as important as making sure the experience is in alignment with Nordstrom’s excellent reputation.

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust

Agreed Shep. I would find more to critique if they were doing no experimentation — after all, that’s how we all learn and innovate. However many of these new concepts are not continually fostered, nurtured and utilized as a place for a steady stream of proof of concepts. I don’t know if Nordstrom’s Local does this, but I hope they do!

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust
There’s still so much to learn with the showroom idea which makes it hard to call a yay or nay at the moment. If I had to guess, I’d say the online pick up and return element will work, but the question is: is that enough to justify the cost? Other services are hit or miss, so then it comes down to getting on to something that pays off. The main issue here is that Nordstrom is learning. They don’t have to guess about a lot of things anymore and that’s huge. Time will tell, but the basic premise of a department store (middle men for manufacturers) is under attack because consumers can and will go direct. Understanding what’s next is going to take continued efforts at the unknowns, just like Local. Yeah, it’s daunting, but they’ve got to keep probing, which will include expensive mistakes. Think about it; Amazon didn’t even blink when their Fire Phone didn’t work, they just kept on with the new. That lesson alone should be enough to keep ideas… Read more »
Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

There are so many things about this concept that I just don’t get.

As a consumer, it makes more sense to pick up a BOPIS order in a Nordstrom store where I am surrounded by merchandise, and more likely to purchase on impulse. That’s good for the retailer and it’s convenient for the consumer.

Like Local, Nordstrom stores also have fitting rooms and tailors. The Instagram photo in the article reads, “Who needs a wardrobe refresh for the week ahead? Styling is one of our convenient services offered…” Yes, but I have to order the product first – how is that convenient? Working with a personal shopper – again in an actual store, surrounded by merchandise – makes more sense.

I can get a glass of juice, a haircut or a manicure in a gazillion other places. I get showroom shopping but this isn’t it. How this concept keeps its brand relevant is beyond me. The emperor, like Nordstrom Local, has no clothes.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Local is a scalability concept and a great way to expand without buying inventory or a full store location. Consumers are smart enough to pick up on the fact that it’s a showroom – and they’re used to trying out the merchandise at a car dealership – including test drives, so why not with luxury items or apparel or handbags? Great way to test the waters for Nordstrom. The data and experiences should drive the improvements and changes.

Trinity Wiles
Guest

I do not think service-oriented showrooms shortchange customers. The purpose of the showroom is more about the experience, displays and interactions and less about the actual products. However, I can see how customers may feel shortchanged if they are unaware of the nature of the “showroom store concept.”

To create a better experience, Nordstrom could implement dressing room appointment scheduling as an integration with BOPIS. So, when a customer comes to pick up their order, they have the option to try their items on right away and even get another size if necessary, without the hassle of mailing returns. This also gives the Nordstrom associates the chance to introduce complementary products to the consumer.

According to the Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly report, in-store conversions are 7.5X higher than online conversions. Based on this, the in-store experience is still vital to the success of retailers. Attention to the showrooms/concept stores and collecting feedback from customers will be crucial.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
3 days 6 hours ago

There are signs all over the Nordstrom HQ in Seattle with a quotes from John Nordstrom. On basically says that customer service is selling.

Service-oriented showrooms don’t shortchange customers if they are focused on customers, as the Nordstrom tradition also dictates.

Apparently this is not the main focus of Local. How does a “local” outpost have limited hours? Limited (or missing) signage? I could go on but Patricia and the other comments do a great job of illustrating the opportunities for JWN here. And the misses.

Among the best examples of a showroom concept is Bonobos. Nordstrom might want to study what they did to build not only their brand but also their business. It’s a great experience and you walk out having spent more than you probably expected to but feeling good about it.

Nordstrom is falling farther behind and it’s a stark contrast to Kohl’s and their continuing innovation focused on customers.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

A store that has to be “explained”? Houston…er…Nordstrom, I think we have a problem. Or maybe it’s not really a store at all.

I don’t disagree with any of Pat’s suggestions, but I think it’s important to remember this is supposed to supplement N’s (existing) model, not replace it; so service-heavy — BOPIS, barbers, tailoring — locations in downtowns make a lot of sense given the many office workers/tourists that surround them, but the applicability to the chain overall is limited.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Using the space to highlight new ranges and allowing ordering from kiosks or screens in-store is something that should have been part of the concept from day one!"
"Nordstrom is falling farther behind and it’s a stark contrast to Kohl’s and their continuing innovation focused on customers."
"The first thing that came to mind as I read the article (and the questions) was that Nordstrom has a reputation they don’t want tarnished."

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