The arrival of Nordstrom, envied by rivals for its top-notch customer service, will increase the competition in Manhattan, home to such department stores as Macy's and its higher-tone sister, Bloomingdales, and to Saks Fifth Avenue. But experts believe Nordstrom also will inject new energy into what's already a retail mecca.
The new store will open in either 2017 or 2018 at 225 W. 57th Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, just south of Central Park, under an agreement signed with real estate company Extell Development Co., the Seattle-based retailer said.
The store will be at the base of a skyscraper still in the planning stages that is to include pricey residences and a hotel.
"We're really excited about this," said Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising at the department store chain. "It's been a long time coming."
Nordstrom announced the details at a news conference in New York. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gary Barnett, president of Extell, joined Pete Nordstrom and his brother Erik, who is president of stores.
Nordstrom already operates two stores in Manhattan: a Nordstrom Rack outlet on 14th Street and Treasure & Bond in SoHo, which donates its profits to local charities.
Nordstrom considered other sites, including 57th Street at Park Avenue and Sixth Avenue at 16th Street, according to Faith Hope Consolo, who leads retail leasing and marketing at Prudential Douglas Elliman and worked with landlords on previous Nordstrom deals that fell through.
Pete Nordstrom said the search was complicated by the company's need for a particular configuration plus space for a loading dock, among other requirements. At about 285,000 square feet on seven floors, the new store will be almost twice as big as Nordstrom's average store.
With the opening, Nordstrom aims to piggyback on the success of the Time Warner Center in nearby Columbus Circle, which is anchored by high-end restaurants and specialty chain stores such as J.Crew, Tourneau, Williams-Sonoma and Coach.
While plenty of people predicted Time Warner's vertical mall wouldn't work in a city of street shoppers when it opened in 2004, it has surpassed expectations, generating $1,600 in sales per square foot. The center's original leasing agent, Robert Futterman, chairman and CEO of Robert K. Futterman & Associates, said the forecast was for $1,000 per square foot.
J.C. Penney opened a store near Macy's flagship in Herald Square in 2009, but many more major department stores have closed than opened in Manhattan over the years, including Alexanders, Orbachs, Bonwit Teller, Gimbels and B. Altman.
Nordstrom is entering the scene as Macy's conducts a $400 million facelift on the Herald Square store, and industry experts say its rivals have something to fear from their new neighbor.
"They're all going to have to up their game, particularly in customer service," said Brian Sozzi, chief equities analyst at NBG Productions, an independent research firm.
Nordstrom has a strong offering in shoes, and it's adding new customer services to cater to shoppers now armed 24-7 with tablets and smartphones. It started offering free shipping on all online purchases last year. Wi-Fi access is free in all its full-line stores, where sales associates now carry devices to let shoppers check out wherever they happen to be in the store. And, early this year, Nordstrom made it easier to qualify for prizes through its Fashion Rewards loyalty program.
Pete Nordstrom remained cautious, however, about Manhattan.
"We know what we're up against, and we know it will be a lot of hard work," he added.
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