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Nordstrom's First Standalone Men's Store Is Banking on 'High Heat' Product and Prime Customer Service

With New York City being the retailer's largest market online, the success of the new space offline seems a foregone conclusion.
Photo: Naho Kubota

Photo: Naho Kubota

The new Nordstrom men's store in New York City has it all: There's streaming natural light coming into the space courtesy of its floor to ceiling windows; there's extremely convenient and market-savvy services like 24/7 pick up and express returns; and there's a lineup of exclusives, including products from the likes of Cole Haan, Reigning Champ and AG Jeans, as well as unique experiences like the first Comme Des Garcons shop-in-shop dedicated to men.

A well-stocked shoe department comes with a Christian Louboutin-branded space, a Nike Shop and a wall of sneakers opposite that of dress shoes. Sneakers represent about 50 percent of the floor, up from about the third that they usually represent. "That's really mostly driven by the designer business," Kristin Frossmo, executive vice president and general merchandise manager for shoes, said. And for good reason: sneakers are reportedly the fasted growing shoe category for the brand.

"We really knew that we needed to show up in a different way," Paige Thomas, Nordstrom executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men's, said in an interview with Fashionista this week. "We really wanted to find points of distortion for certain businesses."

In early press, one of those points — in regards to the sneaker business — was set to be a landmark partnership with the New York-based sneaker reseller Stadium Goods. That company's rare finds have historically only been available via its own shop and website, but the new Nordstrom store (which is the Seattle-based retail chain's first standalone men's location) had plans to host the first Stadium Goods physical space outside of that and was set to include online integration as well. But, ultimately, Thursday's grand opening came without it.

"We've been talking with [Stadium Goods] for quite a while and we did have a plan to open with them," Frossmo explained. "But when you're working with someone who isn't a traditional wholesaler, there are some differences in operating models and being able to figure it out together. So unfortunately, due to some last minute complications, which we're disappointed about of course, we don't have them at opening." However, representatives from Stadium Goods and Nordstrom have said that conversations are ongoing and that this collaboration is still in the works.

Online only shoe brands like Greats sit alongside labels like Nike, Adidas, Givenchy and more. But will this become a new hypebeast destination with lines that rival other multi brand retailers in the city like Kith?

Photo: Naho Kubota

Photo: Naho Kubota

"We are really looking at New York as a location to bring in more of the high heat product," Frossmo said, mentioning working relationships with Nike and Adidas in particular but falling short of mentioning exact drops. "Some people will be really excited and maybe surprised at some of the products that may come through. We want to be able to offer the customer the most desirable product."

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That desirable product extends to the apparel. On the store's entry level sits a Comme Des Garcons space replete with pieces from every men's line from the brand (the sparkly shorts from the HOMME Plus line are eye catching) as well as a few options from the CDG-owned Gosha Rubchinskiy label. Nearby is an expanded designer contemporary section, "a much larger footprint than we have ever done before," and a section of activewear that approaches the category as a lifestyle, much in the way of the streetwear market.

Other shop-in-shops, on the top floor, walled in with chain mail so as not to obstruct the light streaming in, include Balenciaga, Dior Homme, Valentino and Calvin Klein. The latter's' space, clearly a riff off of the Sterling Ruby designed set for the show.

But an important aspect of the new location is its services. Located near every entrance are express return kiosks where customers can execute quick, attendee free returns courtesy of provided bags and electronic pads. "It should take about two minutes," an employee said.

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Another service: 24/7 pick up. The store will have an attendee available at any time (whether the store is actually open or not) for customers to pick up orders. When combined with their "pick up in store" policy, this could mean that you could essentially order and nab any piece that the store carries late-night before a red eye.

As one can expect from Nordstrom, suiting also plays a part of the store's offering. The chain remains the largest employer of tailors in North America and isn’t abandoning that business any time soon. In fact, a new life-size screen will turn a swatch from Samuelsohn into a fully digitized suit where shoppers can see the suit they are hoping to buy with all the details included.

Photo: Naho Kubota

Photo: Naho Kubota

But according to the company, denim has always been important to their business as well. "Denim is definitely a distortion category across our business," Thomas explained. "So while we knew to show up differently — we have less brands in the store in New York than we do in other locations — it absolutely is a priority business for us from a volume perspective, as well as sort of balancing the clothing all the way to casual for our guy." There, shoppers will find the largest offering from Frame Denim in the US (throughout the store, brands are represented in holistic ways, showing the breadth of their offerings), as well as brands like Rag & Bones and AG Jeans in about 122 washes. A Levi's Tailor Shop will service all of this denim (regardless of brand) and will also be able to customize just about anything else in the store.

The space as a whole is a well-considered pitch for opening a new retail location when so many are closing — or prioritizing an online shopping experience. Providing tried and true services like personal styling sessions (a suite of VIP dressing rooms will be available at the nearby in-store Clubhouse) while emphasizing convenience, will surely appeal to a new customer while maintaining the old one. And with New York City being the retailer's largest market online, the success of this space offline seems a foregone conclusion.

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