July 23, 2018
Can you imagine being 16 years old, having only $5 in your pocket, landing in a strange country and not speaking the language–and doing it all by yourself? It’s a scary thought, for sure. However, that is exactly what John W. Nordstrom did in 1887 when he left Sweden and came to the United States.
He worked as a laborer in mines and logging camps until 1897, when he headed to Alaska to take part in the Klondike Gold Rush. Two years later he returned to Seattle with a $13,000 stake.
While in Alaska, Nordstrom met Carl F. Wallin, A Seattle shoemaker, who offered him a partnership in a shoe store. They opened their first store in Seattle in 1901 and by 1923, they added a second store. They built their business on the values of excellent service, selection, quality and value. John Nordstrom retired in 1928 and sold his share of the company to his sons. A year later Carl Wallin retired and sold his interest to the Nordstrom sons. A third son, Lloyd, joined the team a few years later.
Over the following years, the three Nordstrom brothers built the company into the
largest independent shoe chain in the country, with eight shoe stores in Washington and Oregon and 13 leased shoe departments in Washington, Oregon and California. Their store in downtown Seattle became the largest shoe store in the nation.
By the 1960’s, the company was ready to expand and, in 1963, Nordstrom bought Best Apparel, a Seattle-based clothing store.
In January, 1966, Nordstrom purchased Nicholas Ungar, a Portland fashion retailer. They merged the two stores and changed the name to Nordstrom Best.
The three brothers has agreed to retire when each one reached 65 years of age. The company was then turned over to the third generation–three sons, a son-in-law and a family friend. In 1973, they opened the first Nordstrom Rack, which today has grown to 127 stores in 30 states. The store offers discount prices, with savings of 30 to 70 percent off regular retail prices.
In 1975, Nordstrom bought three stores in Alaska and in May, 1978, they entered the California market with the opening of the South Coast Plaza Nordstrom in Orange County. The company continued to expand and in 1988, Nordstrom opened its first East Coast location in McLean, Va. Expansion continued across the country over the next two decades.
In 1995, the third generation of Nordstrom men retired as co-chairmen, retaining their positions on the Board of Directors.
In 1998, nordstrom.com was introduced to offer customers the ability to shop online. By 2009, Nordstrom began shipping orders abroad and currently serves 96 countries online. Over the following years, the Nordstrom’s website was greatly enhanced and mobile shopping apps were introduced. Today, Nordstrom continues to improve the speed, selection and convenience of its online business.
In 2014 Nordstrom opened its first full-line store in Canada in Calgary. They continued to expand in Canada over the following years, with full-line stores in Ottawa, British Columbia and Toronto.
Keeping it fresh
Today, several generations later, Nordstrom remains committed to its founding principles of providing the best possible customer experience.
Communications and Marketing
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