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Friday, June 29, 2012 - Page updated at 01:00 p.m.
Nordstrom to give details about Manhattan flagship Thursday
By Amy Martinez
Seattle Times business reporter
New Yorkers rarely take their fashion cues from the rest of America, let alone Seattle.
Even so, America's fashion capital is abuzz over the likelihood that Seattle's iconic fashion purveyor finally has settled on a location for a first-ever Manhattan Nordstrom.
On Thursday, the Seattle-based company is expected to announce its plans for a new flagship store on West 57th Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue.
Although Nordstrom is mum on the specifics of its plans, it acknowledged late Wednesday that it will make "an announcement" at 1 p.m. EDT (10 a.m. PDT) at its Treasure & Bond store in New York.
Among the speakers will be Mayor Michael Bloomberg, President of Merchandising Peter Nordstrom and New York real-estate mogul Gary Barnett.
Retail experts say a Manhattan Nordstrom would mark a major milestone in the company's 111-year history, raising its profile among New York's fashion elite and possibly setting it up for an international expansion.
"New York is where the world meets," said Bill Smead, portfolio manager of Smead Value Fund, which owns about 50,000 Nordstrom shares. "It's one of the greatest places to practice retail on the planet."
Nordstrom has full-line clothing stores in New Jersey, Long Island, N.Y., and upstate New York, but it has struggled to enter Manhattan.
Company President Blake Nordstrom told a Bellevue Chamber of Commerce audience in 2008 that when he looked at the former Drake Hotel on Park Avenue, its potential rent bill, at more than $45 million annually, was "a little scary."
Other possible sites have included Hudson Yards on the West Side and 3 Columbus Circle in Midtown, across from where Nordstrom now is slated to go.
In the meantime, Nordstrom has laid the groundwork by opening other stores in New York. The company unveiled a discount Rack store at Union Square in Lower Manhattan two years ago, followed last fall by Treasure & Bond, a small philanthropic-based concept store in the Soho district.
Nordstrom's Manhattan flagship reportedly will cover seven floors at the base of a future skyscraper planned by Barnett's Extell Development, two blocks from Time Warner Center.
At 300,000 square feet, it's smaller than the downtown Seattle Nordstrom, but bigger than the Bellevue Square Nordstrom.
"It's going to be a big enough store and in the right location to make it high-profile," said analyst Dan Geiman, who follows Nordstrom for McAdams Wright Ragen in Seattle. "At the same time, they're going to be disciplined and not break the bank on it."
Nordstrom will buy its portion of the building for more than $300 million, according to The New York Times, which cited anonymous real-estate sources.
Analyst Liz Dunn, of Macquarie Group in New York, said property ownership makes sense for Nordstrom, given Manhattan's skyrocketing rents. "It'll be a good investment," she said.
Nordstrom operates 231 locations in 31 states, including 117 full-line clothing stores. Since the recession, it has cut back on its full-line store openings, instead focusing on remodels and an aggressive expansion of its Rack chain and e-commerce business.
While the Manhattan store may be a precursor to international growth, it would not be Nordstrom's first step in that direction. The company has been looking in Canada for new locations for more than a year.
Still, there's no denying that New York is a huge draw for Asian and European tourists. "Once you have a store here, you start to build your brand on a much more international scale," Dunn said.
A major Manhattan presence also would enable Nordstrom to evaluate trends more quickly, she said.
"Retailers that operate here tend to feed off the energy of this place and get more ideas about where the consumer is headed," she said. "And New York is a different sort of trend city than the West Coast, where Nordstrom has the bulk of its stores. It provides a counterpoint to that West Coast dominance in terms of its fashion direction."
But it'll be a while before Nordstrom sees any of those benefits. The Manhattan flagship reportedly won't be ready to open until 2018.
Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or email@example.com
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