16 Jan 2020 • Retail
How integrating hospitality helps make retailers more resilient
Twelve months to the date, department store chain Lord & Taylor closed its flagship on Fifth Avenue after more than 100 years in business. As we reported in the last issue, that property has now been sold to eCommerce brand Le Tote. Then in August, rival Barneys filed for bankruptcy and in October announced that all of its locations were likely to cease trading. In short, most legacy department store operators are calling time.
Apart from the Nordstrom family, that is, which has just cut the ribbon on a 320,000-square-foot (30,000-sq-m) venue covering the first seven floors of one of New York’s premier pieces of real estate, Central Park Tower, the tallest of the new generation of super-tall residential developments dominating the centre of Manhattan.
How will this store succeed where so many others have failed? Part of the answer, Nordstrom hopes, is in the abundance of fashion-adjacent services. While it’s reported that there will be more than 100,000 pairs of women’s shoes available across the property, it’s likely that the availability of onsite shoe repair, cleaning and customization services will help draw shoppers back with increased frequency. Indeed, tailoring across all categories is something the store aims to leverage to increase customer loyalty and footfall. Beauty features heavily, too. Over 210 different treatments will be on the menu, from haircare to massages to waxing and a ‘face gym’.
These sorts of offerings have already proved popular in the UK, where the likes of Harvey Nichols and Selfridges have both recently partnered with The Restory to offer in-store repairs for luxury goods, and Harrods has invested heavily in its onsite health and beauty facility The Wellness Clinic. Where the US retailer is truly evolving the department store offer, however, is in its hospitality provision.
Should Nordstrom’s shoppers find themselves thirsty or hungry while browsing, they’ll be able to turn to sales staff and order food and drink directly to the sales floor. This will arrive, not via the cardboard and plastic of takeaway containers, but in china and glassware. Eight dishes will be available for delivery, such as the company’s signature chicken taco. If you’re surprised that Nordstrom has a signature anything, just note that one in every four transactions across the Nordstrom portfolio is food or beverage related. It has learnt from experience how keeping its visitors nourished helps to increase both dwell time and demeanour.
On that point, several levels will be fully licensed, offering the chance of a far more engaging shopping experience for groups – and perhaps a spike in impulse purchases. This last strategy could help position Nordstrom in consumer minds as appropriate for a greater number of ‘occasions’, such as an after-work meet up or shopping-based birthday celebration. Physical retail has suffered in an age when consumers increasingly prize convenience. But what if inconvenience is repositioned as something to be traded off against conviviality? That might just reignite the appeal of spending several hours wandering the aisles of gargantuan multi-brand retailers.