Nordstrom slide reflects fear of online threat

Seattle-based Nordstrom’s stock sagged 6.9% Tuesday, and shoppers turned lukewarm to its traditionally strong Anniversary Sale.
     Signs suggest that investors are worrying about department stores’ ability to compete with online retailers. The Seattle Times ran a story Tuesday quoting an investor who noted brick-and-mortar stores are losing foot traffic.
     “The most exposed to e-commerce are the department stores,” said a Morningstar analyst. “They’re carrying the same merchandise, and the in-store experience isn’t spectacular.”
     Although I don’t foresee Nordstrom disappearing anytime soon, the department-store slump – Macy’s and Kohl's stock also sank Tuesday – brings to mind other Northwest brands that thrived, then swooned. The department-store list includes:

  • The Bon Marché, acquired by Macy’s in 1995
  • Frederick & Nelson, closed in 1992
  • The Crescent, also closed in 1992
  • Jafco, eventually acquired by Best stores, which closed in 1995
  • Lamonts, sold in 2000 to Gottschalks, which liquidated in 2009
  • Meier & Frank, acquired by Macy’s in 2006
  • Mervyn’s, bankrupt in 2008
  • Rhodes, renamed Lamonts in 1969
  • Valu-Mart, renamed Leslie’s in 1974, then acquired by Fred Meyer
  • White Front, left Washington in 1973
  • Wigwam, gone by the mid-1970s.
     Of course, national-brand stores also folded here in the Northwest, such as Montgomery Ward, Woolworth, and S.H. Kress. And is it just me, or when you walk into a half-empty Sears store, do you wonder, how much longer….?

by  Jon Osterberg

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