Nordstrom’s wild new concept: A clothing store with no clothes


Nordstrom Local in West Hollywood, Calif. (PRNewsfoto/Nordstrom Inc.)

What about a store with no merchandise?

That’s the idea Nordstrom announced Monday. It will be testing it in a West Hollywood, Calif., location, set to open on Oct. 3.

The store, named Nordstrom Local, will differ from the Nordstroms most of us are used to visiting in a few different ways. Instead of being around 140,000 square feet like most locations, for example, it will be a compact 3,000. It’ll also include wine, beer and, of course, espresso for shoppers.

Most notably, it won’t contain any clothes for sale. The stores will include some for shoppers to try on, but there will be no inventory to purchase on site.

Stylists will be on hand to guide shoppers to a personalized wardrobe, which customers can then order online to be delivered to the store that same day. Or the stylists will visit one of the nine local traditional Nordstrom locations to retrieve the purchase.

The idea is to keep shoppers from feeling overwhelmed by too much choice.

“Shopping today may not always mean going to a store and looking at a vast amount of inventory,” Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s senior vice president of customer experience, told the Wall Street Journal. “It can mean trusting an expert to pick out a selection of items.”

If shoppers want to wait for the clothing to arrive, they can have another drink or indulge in a manicure.

Once the clothes arrive, tailors are available on-site to make alterations.

While opening a store without inventory seems like it would make shopping longer and more complicated, the company argued it will actually streamline the process.

“As the retail landscape continues to transform at an unprecedented pace, the one thing we know that remains constant is that customers continue to value great service, speed and convenience,” Jensen said in a news release. “We know there are more and more demands on a customer’s time and we wanted to offer our best services in a convenient location to meet their shopping needs. Finding new ways to engage with customers on their terms is more important to us now than ever.”

This concept is the latest volley in the fight against online retail giants.

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

Nordstrom isn’t the first to try this. Men’s clothing retailer Bonobos, for example, got its start by opening brick-and-mortar locations where men would be fitted for clothing they would later order online. It found great success. This summer Walmart purchased it.

As the Economist pointed out, many other stores are attempting to lure customers with more than their own clothing. Lululemon, for example, hosts yoga classes while Louis Vuitton locations act secondarily as art museums, displaying rare pieces.