John W. Nordstrom History

Founder of the Nordstrom Department Store chain. In 1887, 16-year-old John W. Nordstrom left his home in Sweden for the promise of New York City. He arrived with $5 in his pocket, a fifth grade education,  and not a word of English to his name. The first years in the land of opportunity were hard. John labored in mines and logging camps while crossing the country to the west coast of Washington. One morning in 1897, he saw a newspaper headline: “Gold Found in the Klondike in Alaska.” He made the decision that day to leave for Alaska. and the very next day he bought his ticket. With the hard labor, rough terrain and overabundance of eager workers, things were no easier in Alaska, but John persevered and within two years earned $13,000 from a gold-mine stake. John returned to Seattle eager to invest his money. He reunited with Carl Wallin, a friend from his Alaska days who owned a shoe-repair shop in downtown Seattle. In 1901, they opened Wallin & Nordstrom, a small downtown shoe store which was the humble beginning of what was to become Nordstrom, Inc. From the start, John’s approach to business was to provide exceptional service, selection, quality and value. The idea resonated with a devoted customer base, and in 1923 the partners added a second store. In 1928, John retired and sold his share of the company to his sons Everett Nordstrom and Elmer Nordstrom. Carl Wallin retired a year later and also sold his share to the Nordstrom sons. John’s third son, Lloyd Nordstrom, joined the team in 1933. A GROWING REPUTATION By 1960, the downtown Seattle shoe shop had become the largest shoe store in the country, and the company, now with eight locations in Washington and Oregon, was the largest independent shoe chain in the United States. Looking for new ways to spread its wings, Nordstrom ventured into the women’s clothing market with the purchase of Seattle-based Best Apparel in 1963. With the purchase of a Portland, Oregon, fashion retailer three years later, Nordstrom now offered Northwest customers a selection of shoes and apparel under the new name Nordstrom Best. Men’s and children’s wear were added in 1966. Business prospered and two new Washington stores followed soon after. In 1968, the three Nordstrom brothers handed the company over to the third generation: Everett’s son Bruce Nordstrom, , Elmer’s sons James Nordstrom and John Nordstrom, Lloyd’s son-in-law Jack, and family friend Bob Bender. A NATIONAL EXPANSION Going public in 1971, the company was formally renamed Nordstrom, Inc. Two years later, annual sales surpassed $100 million and the company was recognized as the largest-volume fashion specialty store on the West Coast. In 1973, the first Nordstrom Rack opened in Seattle as a clearance outlet for the full-line stores, and by 1975 the company had expanded into Alaska. Three years later, Nordstrom entered the competitive California market and by 1988 had opened its first East Coast store in Virginia. EXTRAORDINARY PARTNERSHIPS  At the start of the new millennium, Nordstrom entered several strategic alliances. From 2000 to 2007, the company owned Façonnable, an upscale European apparel collection for men and women. In 2005, the company purchased a majority interest in Jeffrey, two luxury fashion boutiques in Atlanta and New York City’s Meatpacking District. In 2011, Nordstrom entered the online private sale market by acquiring Los Angeles-based HauteLook, and also purchased minority stakes in kidswear brand Peek. In 2012, Nordstrom became the only major U.S. retailer to sell a broad assortment from the renowned British fashion brands Topshop and Topman. From 2011 to 2013, Nordstrom operated an independent charity-concept store called Treasure&Bond in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. The boutique donated 100% of its profits to New York children’s charities. NORDSTROM TODAY Today, a fourth generation of the Nordstrom family, along with an executive team, helms the company in partnership with a talented team of innovators and fashion leaders. From one tiny shoe store, Nordstrom has grown into a fashion specialty chain with global reach. It offers an unparalleled selection of shoes, clothing and accessories, and an extensive range of services to make shopping fun and convenient. In 2011, the company achieved an all-time record for total net sales at $10.5 billion. Nordstrom currently operates a total of 284 stores located in 37 states, with 118 full-line stores in the United States and one in Canada, 162 Nordstrom Racks, two Jeffrey boutiques and one clearance store. Looking ahead, the company plans to open three new full-line stores in 2014, followed by the opening of its first Manhattan store in 2018. Nordstrom expects to reach a total of 230 Rack stores by 2016. Nordstrom opened its first full-line store in Canada in Calgary in 2014 and has plans to open five more full-line stores in Ottawa (spring 2015), Vancouver (fall 2015) and Toronto (2016 and 2017).  

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