Nordstrom’s Inventory-Free Stores Are Coming Soon

Nordstrom is pondering a new type of location. Smaller, more intimate and with a greater focus on services than goods, the new store will feature things like tailoring, manicures and even spaces to get a drink.

What the store won’t feature? Clothes.

As of today, there are 121 “original recipe” Nordstroms nationwide, with a new one opening in Toronto this week. But the world is changing — and shoppers’ needs and habits are shifting — and Nordstrom wants to be sure it evolves right along with them.

“There aren’t store customers or online customers — there are just customers who are more empowered than ever to shop on their terms,” said Erik Nordstrom, co-president of the retailer.

The new design, dubbed Nordstrom Local, is set to premier in early October in West Hollywood. At 3,000 feet, it is less than 25 percent of the size of a regular Nordstrom. Although there will be clothes and accessories to try on and try out, the location won’t stock them. Instead, after getting a customer’s look straight, Nordstrom can either send a personal shopper to retrieve the goods from nearby locations in LA or arrange to have the goods shipped directly to the customer’s home.

“Shopping today may not always mean going to a store and looking at a vast amount of inventory,” said Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s senior vice president of Customer Experience. “It can mean trusting an expert to pick out a selection of items.”

The store will also feature a bar — because shopping is thirsty work — and function as a pick-up and drop-off station for consumers. Orders in before 2:00p.m. can be picked up on the same day. Tailors will be available for alterations or to help members of Trunk Club.

Other retailers have experimented with inventory-free stores — Bonobos, most famously. For the most part, however, stores tend to resemble shoppable showrooms — and for a reason, according to Doug Stephens, founder of the consulting firm Retail Prophet. Wall Street tends to measure retailers against their sales per square foot.

“The economic model has to change,” Mr. Stephens said.



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