Nordstrom Opening New Store In Palm Desert
February 22, 2006
Local shoppers' longtime dreams for highly touted doting customer service, great shoes and high-end fashions will likely come true when the fast-growing Coachella Valley gets its first Nordstrom department store in spring 2009.
The Seattle based-retailer, which started as a shoe store in 1901 and grew into one of the industry's premier luxury brands with a reputation for personalized customer service, announced plans Tuesday for a two-story, 149,000-square-foot store. It will be built on the north end of Westfield Palm Desert, replacing one of the buildings that now houses Macy's.
The announcement, first reported on thedesertsun.com, comes as Westfield plans a major refurbishing of the 23-year-old Palm Desert shopping center at Highway 111 and Monterey Avenue.
Shoppers and community leaders around the valley expressed delight with the news a store offering a nearly mystical shopping experience was on its way.
Nordstrom has been a store that people swap stories about, from the clerks who remember not only your name but your size to the tuxedo-clad piano player easing the mood as you search through hundreds of shoes.
"It's going to take business away from everyone. What I love about Nordstrom is customer service. I never thought Nordstrom would come here," said Liz Burnach of Palm Desert. "If they come here, I pity the other stores. I'm happy they're coming. I think it would be nice if they upscale the mall."
The announcement is also a long time coming for local business leaders who tried for years to get a Nordstrom in the valley.
"I started in this job nine years ago, and they've been talking about this since the day I got here," said Ruth Ann Moore, business support manager for the city of Palm Desert.
Some observers were bewildered, however, why it was going to take three years to get here. Nordstrom officials say the company picks its locations well in advance of actual opening dates, and in this case the local project involves building an entirely new structure.
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www.pickamortgage.comAlso, Nordstrom spokeswoman Brooke White said the company is busy nationally readying six more stores slated to open in 2007 and five more opening in 2008. The timing also will allow Westfield to complete its own planned renovation and expansion of its
Palm Desert mall, said Norine Bowen, general manager of the facility.
The time is rightAfter years of entreaties to the company, what finally turned the tide for the valley is its rapid transformation from a seasonal tourist destination into a community with a growing full-time population with younger residents and families.
State and regional figures suggest the valley population is growing at a rate of about 53 people per day. It is projected to boom from its current 386,000 to 730,000 by 2030.
Nordstrom spokeswoman White said the valley's growth and overall demographics - with many high-income residents as well as a growing number of middle-income consumers - makes it an attractive place to set up shop.
The valley also has many residents, including part-timers, with a long history of shopping at Nordstrom in their original home cities.
"We've been getting calls and letters from people in the Coachella Valley for a long time, asking us when we were going to set up a store locally," White said.
Company leaders also said the store location decision came as a result of long and careful study, and response to popular demand.
"We've wanted to have a store in the Coachella Valley for a long time and we're thrilled to finally have the opportunity," Nordstom executive vice president Erik Nordstrom said in a news release Tuesday. "We look forward to giving our loyal customers in the desert their own Nordstrom store."
According to retail analyst Chris Ohlinger, CEO of Kentucky-based Service Industry Re search Systems Inc., Nordstrom in the past five years has shifted its store location strategy away from choosing sites only on the two coasts and Chicago. It is adding stores in more "heartland" suburbs of cities such as Cincinnati, and in growing areas that have traditionally been thought of as resort meccas, including Phoenix, Las Vegas and now the valley.
Ohlinger said the company has deftly maneuvered itself to target more middle-class and middle- income customers - taking on players such as Robinsons-May and Macy's - with an emphasis on upwardly mobile families.
"Their big target is customers who are on the way up, or want to let other people know they are on their way up," Ohlinger said.
He said the company has always maintained investments in strong training programs, even at times when other retailers cut training budgets to save on costs. That has translated into a store culture where employees are treated very well.
"They tend to make the employees feel as good about the brand as the customers feel," the analyst said of Nordstrom.
More new storesNordstrom will follow several other retailers who have opened new outlets in the Coachella Valley in the past few years, including Kohl's, Wal-Mart Supercenter and Target.
The Nordstrom announcement follows Westfield's purchase of 15 buildings nationwide being vacated by Federated Department Stores, including two Macy's buildings at the Palm Desert mall.
Federated is in the process of converting a Robinsons-May store at Westfield Palm Desert into a Macy's store, after which two current Macy's - one selling women's apparel and one selling home furnishings along with men's and children's clothes - will be closed.
"We are delighted with today's announcement by Nordstrom," said Richard Green, Westfield's vice chairman of U.S. Operations. "It's a strong commitment to the Palm Desert community - one we share."
"Nordstrom will serve as a catalyst for the complete revitalization of the center, including the addition of new specialty shops, lifestyle tenants and signature restaurants," Green said.
Nordstrom's White said the Palm Desert store will employ between 250 and 300 workers who will undergo extensive training in customer service. The company expects to get all or most of its employees from the Coachella Valley, White said.
While specifics of the store's design are not final, White said customers can expect certain constants common to Nordstrom stores, including a wide variety of styles, sizes and designer brands - for its shoes as well as clothing.
Service sets retailer apartAlso emphasized will be the attention to customer service, which has garnered it much of its loyalty since the company's founding in 1901.
One example from retail lore of the 1970s - which company officials maintain is absolutely true - involved a customer who visited a Nordstrom in Alaska to get a refund for a car tire he had purchased at the same site, when it was a dry-goods store under another owner.
Looking to keep the shopper happy and loyal, Nordstrom refunded the man's purchase with no questions asked - even though it has never sold tires.
"I can't promise that we'll be taking people's tires in Palm Desert," White quipped. "But those kinds of decisions will always be up to the store manager."
Westfield Palm Desert's Bowen said Westfield eventually will bulldoze the existing Macy's apparel and home furnishings store to make way for Nordstrom.
Bowen said no other tenants are ready to be announced, and plans for the Palm Desert refurbishing remain "in the infancy stages."
"Right now we're still working out the logistics and the details," Bowen said. "We haven't decided yet where (on the property) we're going to expand, or by how much.
"We've got some people researching all of that right now," she added.
Mall set more changesIn addition to Macy's, which is slated to complete its move into the Robinsons-May space by mid-July, Westfield Palm Desert is also anchored by Sears and JC Penney.
"I think competition is great, and it will bring more interest to Westfield Palm Desert," said Macy's manager Ruth Lusk. She said it is too early to decide whether Macy's will alter its merchandise offerings in anticipation of Nordstrom's arrival.
"We're always checking our mix of merchandise for our resort customers, and we update it on a continual basis," she said.
Macy's will retain some home furnishings operations on the lower level of the Macy's building on the south side of the mall now owned by Westfield, which currently houses the store's women's apparel.
All current Macy's apparel offerings will switch to the Robinsons-May building.
Gilbert Guardiola, manager of the mall's JC Penney store, also said he does not foresee his store changing its mix, noting the Palm Desert JC Penney generally carries the same overall lineup as other Southern California stores.
"It's a pretty exciting thing when you get more competition," Guardiola said. "It's good for the city, and it's good for the mall.
"We're glad to have them as an anchor partner at the mall," he said.
About NordstromQUESTION: What kind of Nordstrom can can shoppers expect?ANSWER: Company officials say the Nordstrom planned for Westfield Palm Desert is a two-story, 149,000-square-foot store, to open in spring 2009. It will be similar to approximately 100 of its other upscale, full-line stores nationwide, and is not an outlet store. It is likely to have most of the hallmarks of its other regular stores, including high attention to customer services. Store spokeswoman Brooke White said because the store is still being designed, it is not yet known whether it will have the well-known Nordstrom Cafe or signature piano player seen in many - but not all - of its stores.Q: What kind of merchandise can consumers expect?A: It will have the same offerings as its other full-line stores in shoes, designer men's and women's clothing, and household furnishings. It is not yet known whether it will have items catering specifically to desert customers.Q: What other changes are planned for Westfield Palm Desert?A: No details were available as of Tuesday. Parent company Westfield Group has announced plans for $2billion in renovations for its malls worldwide, slated to be initiated in the next four years. The company is seeking out new tenants including lifestyle retailers, restaurants and anchor d partment stores.
Individualized shoppingMen can purchase made-to-order dress shirts for a personalized fit. Meanwhile, the lingerie department has certified fitters, specially trained to fit all women, including those who have had reconstructive surgery.ShoesNordstrom began in 1901 as a shoe store and continues to win over the soles of America by offering a wide selection of shoes in a generous size range.The upscale apparel at Nordstrom includes designer collections from Michael Kors, Armani, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana.The customer service at Nordstrom is so legendary it's the topic of books. One classic guide is "The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence."