How can you build a successful startup? Examining the successes of others is a great place to start. This post, the first in an occasional series on trendsetting companies, looks at Nordstrom, which for more than a century has been synonymous with top-of-the-line customer service. Businesses across many industries often speak of being the “Nordstrom” of their respective field. Providing top-notch service is one way entrepreneurs can set their concepts above the competition.
When Swedish immigrant John Nordstrom opened a shoe store in Downtown Seattle in 1901 with business partner Carl Wallin, he probably never dreamed that his upstart business would become a global clothing retail icon. Since 1928, the company has remained in the hands of the Nordstrom family, currently under the direction of fourth-generation company executives. Despite a positive reputation in the Seattle metropolitan area, it was not until 1963 that the company expanded to sell women’s clothing in addition to shoes. In 1978, Nordstrom made company and Orange County history by opening at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, its first venture outside of the Pacific Northwest. Today, Nordstrom has 123 full-line stores and 215 Nordstrom Rack locations, the chain’s off-price retail outlet.
The Customer Service Focus
“Nordstrom has seen consistent success throughout the years because they maintain a high level of focusing on consumers,” says Abbey Doneger, CEO of retail analysis firm the Doneger Group. Robert Spector, the coauthor of the 2012 book, The Nordstrom Way, notes, “Every store talks about customer service, but very few actually get it, so it becomes a cliché to mention it. But Nordstrom actually believes in it.”
Very liberal return policies, empowering employees to address customer concerns, a balanced product assortment including both high-end and more modestly priced clothing, and a contemporary yet classy ambiance are among the concepts that Nordstrom has pioneered for the retail clothing world. Continue reading