Here’s How Nordstrom Became a Lead Incubator For the Web-to-Physical-Retail Leap

Sole Society and Nordstrom

For the second year in a row, Nordstrom was American consumers’ preferred fashion retailer.  Beyond lenient return policies or thoughtfully laid out stores, might that be partly the result of the company’s innovation in terms of what it carries?  Over the past few years, Nordstrom has been a leader in adapting online-only brands for physical retail, along with showcasing niche products in an effective way.

The recipe seems to go like this.  Start with a big name, attention-getting shop-within-a-shop devoted to a brand everyone loves ( and which isn’t necessarily online only).  In Nordstrom’s case, the partnership came with Topshop two years ago, when the American department store added the British brand as a standalone showcase in 42 of its stores across the country.

After that, Nordstrom became a physical outlet for online specialty brands.  Next came Bonobos, the men’s retailer that perfected men’s chinos and went on to conquer the rest of their wardrobe, and was originally only available through their own site, on the Web.  After that, the department store added some of Sole Society’s line to 37 of its stores (Bonobos is in 80); the shoe company is one of the few online membership product clubs not to fizzle over the past year or two.

Now, Nordstrom’s latest project is to test a partnership with Blue Nile, an online-only jewelry brand.  The department store is adding a bridal-focused jewelry showroom at its downtown Seattle flagship, where shoppers can try out Blue Nile’s wares in person.  Blue Nile employees will be on hand to give diamond-related advice.  The effort seems pretty experimental, since to make a purchase, Nordstrom visitors will still have to visit Blue Nile’s site.

However, even in its initial stages, the venture seems promising.  If it goes the way of their previous web partnerships, expect Nordstrom to conquer this realm, too.