Vol. 16, No. 45, May 10, 2004




This reveille home

The Nordstrom Path to Success

BBRC Annual Giving Generous

Another Match Until June 15

Hands On Painting Project

Community Service Committee Presentation

Friday Potpourri

Report on District conference

Carol Gibson Inducted

Club Welcomes Robin Stark

Steve Goodier: Three Important things in Life

Web Fun

The Nordstrom Path to Success


Nordstrom1One of the Northwest’s premiere retail companies was profiled by someone who carries on the tradition of its founder. Blake Nordstrom, President of Nordstrom, explained the current success of this Northwest icon.

Blake said he began work for the company in the shoe store when he was 17. “We reached a crossroads three years ago when it was decided to return the presidency to the Nordstrom family and return to the values which made our company great.” Since that time, Nordstrom has flourished.

Blake opened his talk by saying “I don’t live on the Eastside and I’m not a Rotarian. So, I’m not sure why you invited me to speak today. In my UW speech class, I was given the assignment of a report of some lyrics called ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ written by Mick Jagger. After my oral report, the instructor said, ‘That was the worst report I’ve ever heard. Take my advice and stay away from public speaking!’ So, you can imagine my surprise when Steve Goldfarb called and asked if I’d speak this week. In our company we have a place where the markdowns go on sale ... that’s called the Rack. And, in Phoenix, we have a place where markdowns from the Rack go ... it’s called Last Chance. I guess I qualify for a Last Chance speaker!”

Within the last eight years, Nordstrom started to stall. “We got our eye off the ball. We moved away from the policies and traditions that got us where we are today. We were executing as well as we could. But with outside managers, we found out that our own culture is what was hurting our business. The Directors decided on a change, re-establishing the family back into management of the company. They found that the ‘boss’ wasn’t listening as well as before. Our strategies weren’t wrong, but a lack of ownership about the Nordstrom culture” was preventing the company from keeping pace and moving forward.

Blake described one of first things the family did was to correct what they perceived to be losing touch with the customers. “We wanted to have the employees think of the company as theirs. That’s the way it used to be. The passion and zeal was missing. So, we went out and talked to our employees and customers, we went back to thinking and listening, and we got cookin’ again and went about rebuilding our integrity. It’s paid off for the shareholders as we posted a 118% gain!”

The Nordstrom president said, “Our team is executing better. We’re enhancing that culture that got us here. We’re now in our 103rd year and we want to be rock solid on our company’s definition ... we’re retailers, we sell stuff. The best form of customer service is them leaving the store with an item in a bag. It’s our reputation that’s on the line.”

The analogy Blake used is Rotary. “Your commitment to the community, your initiatives to help people has created a reputation, your character. For Nordstrom, we want a work environment where people would want to work for us. Customers can tell immediately when our employees aren’t happy. Customer service is our highest focus.”

The company has re-created some of the old, solid adages that made it great. “We tell our employees that the rules for working here are simple: Use your best judgment is rule #1; and the second rule is to always go back to #1. The scorecard shows that our attempts at rebuilding our company are working.”

Answering a question regarding the move from the former Nordstrom store in downtown Seattle and taking over the old Frederick & Nelson property “was an important linchpin in turning Seattle downtown around. We had 750,000 square feet in the F&N building, compared with 300,000 in our old spot. We spent $113 million to bring the new property up to speed. Our Bellevue store is our #2 store, with Seattle at #3. The momentum turned and Seattle’s is one of the best downtowns ever.”

Goldfarb2Thanks to Steve Goldfarb for his introduction. A certificate noting a book has been given in Blake’s name to a 5-year-old blind child was gratefully accepted by Mr. Nordstrom. (At the press table, we thought that Blake’s presentation was very professional, informative and well-delivered. We think his college speech instructor got it wrong!)






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