While on a flight back to Portland, OR after a week in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, I stumbled across a rather interesting article in Delta’s Delta Sky Magazine. Featured on the cover were the brothers and co-presidents behind the Nordstrom brand, in addition to a bold white headline that read: “A Legacy of Leadership”.
As one of the leading department stores in the industry, there’s something extraordinary about the heartbeat that pulses a new level of excellence in to the brand. Nordstrom’s success is rooted in profound customer service, whether it be shoe shopping for toddlers, appealing to the market of teenage girls or creating a seamless shopping experience for men.
While I was home last week, my neighbor went to Nordstrom to purchase a dress for a funeral. Due to the variety of different options the store provides its customers, many women think to go to Nordstrom when in need of a perfect outfit for a wedding, for their child’s high-school graduation ceremony, for a holiday party at work, etc. The quality of Nordstrom’s product proves itself to be relevant no matter what the occasion. But the merchandise itself is not what compelled my neighbor to shop at Nordstrom while in search of a black dress.
“I knew before I stepped in the store that when I went to Nordstrom, I could count on a good experience. I knew I was going to be in the hands of someone who cared, someone who could be engaged and empathetic to the occasion in which I was shopping. I knew I wouldn’t be rushed, I wasn’t going to be inconveniencing anyone and I could take as long as I wanted to find the perfect dress for the funeral. that’s why I shopped at Nordstrom.”
This is powerful. This is one of the many Nordstrom stories that reiterates the importance of customer service. Furthermore, it reflects that Nordstrom is not just a brand with a variety of trendy merchandise, but a brand that can be, and is, associated with monumental moments in the lives of its customers.
The ability of a brand to acquire such influence in the industry is no small coincidence. Instead, it is a reflection of hard work that is consistent among Nordstrom employees. While discussing Nordstrom’s expansion in Canada, Eric Nordstrom said, “It’s about being real, being genuine. We try to hire nice people, and we tell them to be themselves” (p. 166, Delta Sky). This matters.
I took note of the culture among Nordstrom employees shortly after I was hired in the Savvy/Topshop department this past summer. While there’s a very distinct expectation on the sales floor, it is remarkably empowering. It doesn’t just sustain a business with an exceptional reputation, but it creates a culture among the brand on a larger scale that makes hiring from within possible.
“We’re an empowered culture for leaders to do their own thing,” (p. 79, Delta Sky) says Pete Nordstrom.
In my experience working for Nordstrom, I found that the practice of hiring driven, hard-working individuals gives employees motive to excel to new levels and establishes consistency in demonstrating the values of the brand. The cycle is brilliant.
Nordstrom’s employees and emphasis on customer service is not the only component driving its success. The services the brand offers to its customers are constantly evolving with the intent to further enhance the experience of the customer. It’s a brand that values staying relevant by remaining attentive to the gaps of their business. The brilliant minds behind the Nordstrom brand continuously ask the question, “What can we do better?”
The outcome of Nordstrom’s intentional thinking have given the brand an upper hand when it comes to appealing to customers. From Hautelook to the recent addition of Trunk Club, an online styling service designed for men and even partnerships with Topshop, Madewell and the recent integration of Brandy Melville merchandise in particular stores.
Olivia Kim, vice president of creative projects, became the mastermind behind ‘Space’, a line of in-store boutiques featuring up and coming designers that launched at four west coast stores this fall. Kim’s work also includes the Pop-In @ Nordstrom shops that appear exclusively at seven Nordstrom locations. These projects further define Nordstrom’s unique identity to shoppers across the country. It’s ideas like these that push brand’s like Nordstrom ahead of its competitors.
In all that it does, Nordstrom thrives on a cycle of out-of-the-box innovation, creative excellence, outstanding follow-through and remarkable execution that functions under a primary goal: to best serve the customer. A legacy of leadership, indeed.