clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Nordstrom is not ‘the everything store’ — it wants to win with high-quality brands

In other words, Nordstrom doesn’t want to be Amazon.

Nordstrom co-president Erik Nordstrom onstage at Code Commerce in Las Vegas
Nordstrom co-president Erik Nordstrom
Adam Tow

Amazon is known as “The Everything Store.”

Nordstrom, Amazon’s Seattle neighbor, is not. It doesn’t sell commodities. It sells big brands to fashion-conscious consumers. And that’s how it says it’ll win.

“[Amazon has] been very helpful in forcing us to get sharper on who we are and where we can win,” said Erik Nordstrom, co-president of the retail company, from the stage at Recode’s Code Commerce event in Las Vegas on Tuesday night. “We’re not a price promotional retailer. ... The products we participate in, they’re not commodities, and brands matter. There’s a lot of retail that’s gone to commodities, and the brand value’s been taken out of it.”

Nordstrom says that he still thinks of his retail stores — and his digital services like Trunk Club — as places where people discover new products and new brands they didn’t even know existed. That’s not Amazon’s forte; most people go to Amazon because they know exactly what they’re looking for.

“Being that place of discovery — which means curation, means personalization, means having a differentiated product offer, things that you cannot find everywhere — those things are very much in contrast to the sweet spot of what Amazon’s model is,” he added.

So would Nordstrom like to join Amazon? The company is often mentioned as a possible Amazon acquisition target, and Nordstrom wouldn’t need to go very far — he can see Amazon’s construction cranes from his window.

“I’m not going there,” he chuckled.

Nordstrom shared the stage with Don Kingsborough, the CEO of OneMarket, a Nordstrom partner. OneMarket, a spinoff of Westfield, which owns a bunch of major malls, is hoping to change the way brick-and-mortar retailers use data.

Kingsborough’s plan? Encouraging retailers to share data insights about customers so that there’s a more central repository of information on brick-and-mortar shoppers.

“It’s a difficult concept for retailers to embrace at first,” he admitted. “A retailer’s data is very valuable, but it’s usually just in that retailer. But the consumer shops at lots of other retailers.”

“So the idea is you don’t share any one individual retailer’s information with anyone else,” he continued, “[but] you essentially aggregate that ... so they get to understand the customer more holistically, as if they were shopping on a digital platform that had tens of thousands of retailers on it.”

Also discussed Tuesday, albeit briefly: Nordstrom’s recently failed attempt to bring his company private. News broke earlier on Tuesday that a possible deal fell through after the parties involved couldn’t agree on a price.

“The mission stays the same,” Nordstrom said.

Watch the whole thing here:

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.