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Nordstrom, Inc. ( ) is an upscale bridge department store chain in the United Statesmarker, founded by John W. Nordstrom. Initially a shoe retailer, the company today also sells clothing, accessories, handbags, jewelry, cosmetics, fragrances, and in some locations, home furnishings. The corporate headquarters and the flagship store are located in Downtownmarker Seattlemarker, Washingtonmarker.



In 1887 at the age of 16, like many other Swedish immigrants in the late nineteenth century, John W. Nordstrom emigrated to the United States in hopes of striking it rich. He was born in the village of Ale, close to Luleå in Northern Sweden. His name at birth was "Johan Nordström" which he later anglicized to John Nordstrom. After landing in New York, he first worked in Michigan. After working a series of menial jobs as he moved across the country, he saved enough money to purchase a potato farm in Arlington, Washingtonmarker, close to Seattlemarker. In 1897, he joined the Klondike Gold Rush in Canada's Yukon Territorymarker, leaving Seattle with countless others. After two years of prospecting and doing whatever it took to continue, he finally struck gold, but sold his disputed claim for $13,000.[30371] Returning to Seattle with his new found wealth, he married Hilda Carlson and looked for a business venture, finally settling on a shoe store that opened in 1901, called Wallin & Nordstrom. Carl F. Wallin, the co-founder of the store, was the owner of the adjacent shoe repair shop. John and Hilda had five children, three of whom followed him into the family business, Everett W.(1903), Elmer J.(1904) and Lloyd N. Nordstrom. By the time Wallin & Nordstrom opened their second store in Seattle in 1923, Elmer who recently graduated from the University of Washingtonmarker had already had enough hands-on experience to be put in charge of its opening.

In 1928, John W. Nordstrom retired and sold his shares to two of his sons, Everett and Elmer. In 1929, Wallin also retired and sold his shares to them. The 1930 grand opening of the remodeled Second Avenue store marked the change of name to Nordstrom. Lloyd Nordstrom subsequently joined the company in 1933, and the three brothers ran the business together for almost forty years.

By 1958, Nordstrom had expanded to eight stores in two states but still only sold shoes. Their expansion was based on customer service, deep product offerings and full size ranges. Apparel came with its purchase of Best Apparel of Seattle in 1963. The company's name was changed to Nordstrom Best in 1969.

By 1968, the second generation debated selling the company as Everett neared retirement. Instead, they were convinced by the third generation Nordstroms—Bruce A. (Everett's son), James F. and John N. (Elmer's two sons), together with John A. (Jack) MacMillan (married to Lloyd's daughter) -- to take the company public instead, and allow the cousins to take over the business. In 1971, the company was taken public on NASDAQ under the ticker NOBE (Nordstrom Best). In 1973, "Best" was dropped from the company's name, and the store assumed its current name of Nordstrom.[30372] It was moved to the New York Stock Exchangemarker in 1999 under the ticker symbol JWN after John W. Nordstrom, its founder.

Previous Nordstrom logo used until early 1990s

Beginning in 1995, the fourth generation of brothers and cousins served as co-presidents for a time. After John Whitacre served as the first non-Nordstrom CEO in 1997,[30373], in 2001 the family reasserted its control, with the sons of Bruce A. (Blake, Erik and Peter) assuming senior roles in the company which they continue to hold.[30374]


Nordstrom has grown from a regional department store to a national chain by opening new stores rather than by acquisition of other retailers.

By 1975, Nordstrom expanded into Alaska (the only time by acquisition) by purchasing Northern Commercial Company and opened its first Nordstrom Rack clearance store in Seattle. A strong northwest regional retailer with sales already approaching $250 million (making it the third-largest specialty retailer in the U.S.), it opened its first Southern California store at Costa Mesa in 1978. By the early 1990s, it had opened 26 stores plus Racks in California. Subsequent expansion relied on creating a strongly decentralized regional structure, beginning with the Northeast (Tyson's Corner, 1988), Midwest (Oak Brook Mall, 1991), Southeast (Atlanta, 1998), and Southwest (Dallas, 1996) to which the California stores were added. In a new region, the initial store was used as a base for training and recruitment for subsequent expansion, and was usually backed by its own distribution center. From 1978 to 1995, Nordstrom opened a total of 46 full-line department stores.

There have been occasional missteps. In 1976, Nordstrom opened a series of stores called Place Two to sell a more limited selection of apparel in smaller markets. By 1983, there were ten Place Two stores, but by the end of 1994 there were only four stores, and the division was discontinued. An outlet called Nordstrom Factory Direct was tested in the Franklin Mills Mallmarker in 1993, but it was quickly closed in favor of supporting the growth of the Rack stores.

In 1998, Nordstrom replaced its downtown Seattle store with a new flagship location in the former Frederick & Nelson building across the street. At , the downtown Seattle location is the chain's largest store as of February 2007. By contrast, the smallest Nordstrom store (as of September 2008) opened in 1980 in Salem, Oregonmarker and has a total area of just under .

The company also expanded into direct sales in 1993, beginning with a catalog division led by John N.'s son Dan that was followed by an e-commerce business.'s fulfillment and contact center is located in Cedar Rapidsmarker, Iowamarker. Currently, it has distribution centers in Ontario, Californiamarker; Portlandmarker, Oregonmarker; Dubuquemarker, Iowamarker; Upper Marlboro, Maryland; and Gainesville, Florida.


Nordstrom Rack, the company's off-price clearance store.

As the stores expanded in size, restaurants were added beginning in 1979, reaching their peak with the then-largest (and most expensive) Westfield San Francisco Centremarker California flagship store that opened in 1989, that included no fewer than four restaurants as well as an English pub. Recently, the "Espresso Bar" from older stores has been discontinued and re-introduced as the "eBar" with offering a variety of quick-fix snacks, and an expanded "hotbar" drink list. Smaller stores (mostly consisting of two-stories) now have an "in-House Cafe," which offers the same menu but with seating. Nordstrom has also revised its four restaurants (found in select larger stores), the casual "Classic Cafe" and "Marketplace Cafe," the "Cafe Bistro" specializing in brick oven entrees and the "Nordstrom Grill" offering food and alcoholic beverages.

Currently, Nordstrom operates 112 full-line department stores, 68 Nordstrom Rack clearance stores, two Jeffrey Boutiques, and one final clearance stores (Last Chance) all located in 28 different states. They have recently sold (2007) their stand-alone boutique chain Façonnable. Nordstrom also operates a retail bank based in Scottsdale, Arizonamarker.

On September 7, 2007 Nordstrom opened up their first store in Massachusettsmarker at the newly renovated and upscale Natick Collectionmarker, making it one of the most profitable openings in Nordstrom history. Just at the opening gala, in keeping with its tradition of supporting local charitable organizations in its new markets, Nordstrom helped raise over $2,500,000 for the Boston Museum of Sciencemarker and Boston Ballet. Nordstrom plans to open approximately 50 stores within the next 10 years and has already publicly announced 26 store openings through 2012. Among them will be stores in Phoenixmarker, Naplesmarker, Indianapolismarker, Minneapolismarker, Cincinnatimarker, St. Louismarker, Nashvillemarker, and San Juan, Puerto Ricomarker.

Customer service

Nordstrom is well-known for its customer service, so much so that several urban legends have appeared regarding the store. One of the best known legends is purported to have taken place at the Anchorage store soon after its 1975 purchase from Northern Commercial Company. A customer, unaware that the store had changed hands, returned a set of tires. Although Nordstrom had never sold tires since opening, it was determined not to be the fault of the customer the store had changed hands, and the return was accepted. Many Nordstrom customers will attest that Nordstrom will refund items at any time purchased from Nordstrom stores.

Employee handbook

For many years, new employees were given a copy of the famous Nordstrom's Employee Handbook – a single 5 x gray card containing 75 words:
Fortune magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work For 2009. (Nordstrom is a Hall of Fame member of Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" list.) Nordstrom was No. 36 on the same list in 2008, No. 24 in 2007, No. 46 in 2006 and No. 88 in 2005.

Nordstrom was ranked No. 286 (previously 293) on the Fortune 500 for 2007.


  1. The Nordstrom Way (1996), 133
  2. Dow Jones News Services. "Nordstrom-Place Two -2-: To Close 3 Stores, Convert 1." 26 April 1994.
  4. Nordstrom Way, 209-210
  5. The Nordstrom Way, 213
  6. Nordstrom Way, 145, 133
  8. Lessons of the Nordstrom Way,
  9. 100 Best Companies to Work For 2009,, Last accessed January 22, 2009
  10. Nordstrom Careers, Nordstrom. Last accessed March 2, 2007.
  11. 100 Best Companies to Work For 2006,, Last accessed February 15, 2007.
  12. Fortune 500 2007,, Last accessed July 24, 2007.

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