I worked at Nordstrom for three summers during college. I sold children’s shoes and young men’s clothing in The Rail department. During those summers, I learned a lot about quality customer service and, more importantly, about the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
Nordstrom is a fashion specialty retailer founded in 1901 as a shoe store in Seattle. Today, Nordstrom operates more than 150 U.S. stores across 27 states, and is steadfastly committed to the principles the business was founded on more than a century ago – exceptional service, selection, quality and value.
Nordstrom, like other luxury retailers, has experienced solid sales growth over the last several years; however, its continued success is being threatened by the de-malling of America. Open-air power and lifestyle centers are cropping up in communities of all shapes and sizes. As such, customers are drifting toward convenient community shopping rather than giant, regional, one-roof shopping malls, where Nordstrom is predominately located.
Helping to differentiate Nordstrom and continually draw customers out to the regional malls is the fairytale experience. Nordstrom thrives on providing legendary experiences through unbelievable customer service, which result in customer folklore and the most powerful word-of-mouth marketing possible.
As department stores fight against discounters and specialty shops, Nordstrom also faces competition from other luxury/fashion retailers like Macy’s and Bloomingdales. Recent research shows that, despite tough competition, Nordstrom has realized stronger sales per square foot and, according to at least one analyst, is a “best in class” retailer.
While Nordstrom’s customers are very complimentary and seemingly loyal, many only shop its aisles a few times per year or for special occasions, and are commonly concerned about price point. Still, hard-working professional types know Nordstrom is where they feel special and pampered.
Legends of Nordstrom pampering are widespread. Nordstrom thrives on providing memorable experiences and creating customer folklore. Every register at Nordstrom stores has pen and paper for customers to share their stories. Every morning before each store opens, Nordstrom employees gather in the main lobby for the store manager to share some of the best stories from the previous day and reward the employees in those stories. And, in talking with many Nordstrom customers recently, it seems like every customer has their own legendary Nordstrom tale, or has at least heard one.
Have you heard about the customer who tried to return pants that had clearly been worn for an extended amount of time, but was still refunded? Or the Nordstrom employee who made a house call to exchange a pair of shoes? How about the blouse that was returned and refunded when it was clearly from another store? And then there’s the one about Nordstrom splitting two pairs of shoes in order to fit the man with different sized feet.
One legendary story is the “tire chains” story. A man walked into Nordstrom and insisted that he purchased a used set of tire chains there. Without hesitation, the Nordstrom clerk refunded the person’s money out of her own pocket – even though the receipt clearly indicated another store. Then, on her lunch hour, she took the receipt and tire chains to the store where they were from and got her money back.
Another famed story is of the Portland man who needed an Armani tuxedo for his daughter’s wedding. As a last-ditch effort to find an Armani tuxedo, he went to the local Nordstrom. His personal shopper took his measurements and asked for a little time to work on it. The customer left and the next day he received a phone call from Nordstrom saying they had found the tux and it would be ready the next day. The next day he drove to Nordstrom, tried on the tux and found it fit perfectly. Nordstrom had altered the tux for free. He asked his Nordstrom personal shopper how she did it. She just smiled and shrugged “magic.” He pressed and the Nordstrom personal shopper explained that after he left the store she had immediately worked to solve the problem by utilizing her connections and finding the tux on the other side of the continent in New York. The New York distributor put the Armani tux on a truck bound for Chicago that day where the personal shopper had coordinated for a Chicago Nordstrom employee to meet the truck at a rest stop and retrieve the tux. Once in the Chicago Nordstrom store, the tux was over-nighted to Portland and altered to fit perfectly. The unbelievable service? Nordstrom doesn’t even sell Armani tuxedos.
What’s your Nordstrom story? Mine was the shoe exchange house call mentioned above. It happened three years ago when I called to ask if they had my shoes in stock because the sole had split on the pair I purchased a few months back. The salesman confirmed they were in stock and insisted he drive the shoes out to my house. Even more amazing was the fact that the store was easily one hour away.