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Friday, July 13, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.
Trendy Topshop heads to Nordstrom
By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD
The New York Times
Nordstrom is bringing in some rock'n'roll flair, teaming up with Topshop, the British fast-fashion chain.
Along with the men's brand Topman, Topshop will be introduced in Nordstrom in September and sold through Nordstrom.com, the companies said Thursday. Topshop, which incorporates trends from the runway and from street fashion into its clothing in a matter of weeks, will add some speed to Nordstrom, which has so far lacked such a quick-turnaround brand.
"This will be a new customer for them, and a new customer for us," Sir Philip Green, the owner of Topshop, said in an interview Thursday at Topshop's New York store, one of three it has in the United States.
Department stores want to bring in young shoppers, and partnerships like this is a popular way to do it. JCPenney has carried clothes from the fast-fashion brand Mango, under its MNG by Mango line, for a couple of years. On Tuesday, Neiman Marcus and Target announced they would jointly be carrying Christmastime collections from 24 designers like Carolina Herrera and Derek Lam.
Nordstrom will add Topshop to 14 stores in September, including its Southcenter location. Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising for Nordstrom, said the 14 stores represented a range of geographies, sizes and shopper demographics, so Nordstrom can get a sense of what worked where; from there, the plan is to roll Topshop and Topman out to most of its stores.
"Fast fashion implies cheap, and that's not what we're after," Pete Nordstrom said. "It wasn't about how we sell a bunch of really cheap T-shirts. It's about how we deliver credible new fashion to the customer."
The Nordstrom offering will be a smaller selection of what is also available at Topshop proper, although some styles and patterns will be exclusive to Nordstrom.
Kate Phelan, Topshop's creative director, showed off some fall clothing that Nordstrom will be able to pick from, including a women's leather jacket with faux-shearling trim and buckles at the neck, a men's peacoat in a Navajo pattern and a women's cable-knit sweater in ombre gray.
Nordstrom will also carry Topshop and Topman accessories, including shoes, bags, makeup and grooming products.
Phelan said that although she expected the Nordstrom shoppers to be more conservative, Topshop still would offer a wide range of styles for them.
"We make them feel it's very easy to understand how to mix a combat jacket with a lace skirt," she said.
The merchandise will be delivered weekly, which, Green said, will bring customers into Nordstrom stores frequently.
"That speed is appealing," Pete Nordstrom said.
The department store is allocating about 2,500 square feet for the women's Topshop merchandise, and 1,500 for the men's. Pete Nordstrom said the mannequins and signs would be similar to those in a Topshop store, though Nordstrom would not set off the merchandise with walls.
While Topshops usually blare music, Nordstrom is known for its tinkling pianos. Pete Nordstrom said that, at least for now, "it's going to live amongst what we do," meaning a DJ probably won't be setting up a station in the Topshop section anytime soon.
Topshop is not sold now at any U.S. department stores, although it is available in Canada at The Bay. At its own stores, its U.S. division is a tiny part of the business. It has 319 stores in Britain and about 140 elsewhere in the world; the international stores are largely franchised, although the U.S. stores are wholly owned.
Green said he expected the Nordstrom partnership would help him figure out what to carry at other U.S. stores.
"Obviously, there's places in America we've never been — we need an editor to give us a little bit of direction," Green said.
The Topshop-Nordstrom courtship started when Pete Nordstrom called Green in late February to see whether he was interested in a deal.
Green said he had been approached by several retailers about adding Topshop merchandise, but he said he was not interested in being in a mass-market store — Topshop rarely discounts — and he didn't want to be in a store where he would be competing with other quick-turnaround brands.
Green was in Las Vegas preparing for a March opening of the Topshop there when he received Pete Nordstrom's call. There was a Nordstrom in the same mall where Topshop was opening, and Green told Pete Nordstrom he would call him back.
He bustled down to the Nordstrom, where he checked out the merchandise, then dragged the general manager and men's and women's merchandise directors back to Topshop so they could see what his brand was about.
"I said, 'Now you can call your boss and tell him if it's any good,' " Green said.
Pete Nordstrom flew from Seattle soon afterward to meet with Green in Las Vegas. They toured each other's stores, then sat down over tea and cheesecake at a Nordstrom cafe to make a deal.
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company
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