Nordstrom on a roll with Rack

The Wall Street Journal credited Rack with helping Nordstrom regain its footing after the recession,

So there I was this week, nose pressed against the window two days before Nordstrom Rack was due to open at Colonie Center, trying to get a sense of the place.

I couldn’t actually read any of the price tags on the displays of women’s dresses near the window, but Daughter No. 1, a Rack shopper in Washington, D.C., says they’re always worth a look. She’s a fan of Rack shoes, too, so I’ll have to let her know that section takes up a good chunk space.

I wasn’t alone in checking out the new store, set to open today on the second floor near Sears. I counted a half-dozen or so people in a 15-minute span around lunch time Tuesday stopping for a look. Everything appeared ready to go.

Rack is the off-price sibling of upscale retailer Nordstrom, where “destroyed” women’s designer jeans will set you back almost $900 and a diamond choker necklace goes for $24,000.

The company got its start in the early 1900s as a shoe store in Seattle, moving into clothing in the 1960s. Stores now number 300 in the U.S. and Canada, nearly 120 full-line Nordstroms and close to 180 Racks. There’s also a sprinkling of other names, online and as boutiques.

Rack is where the company has put considerable energy of late. A website list of store openings through 2018 promises the debut of Rack after Rack. Buffalo gets one today, too, with Syracuse due in October. All of the upstate stores are new to their markets.

In May, the Wall Street Journal credited Rack with helping Nordstrom regain its footing after the recession, when “cheap chic” became the mantra of many shoppers. For 2014, according to Nordstrom’s annual report, sales per square foot at Rack stores totaled $553, versus $371 at the full-line stores.

The annual report also shows the company adding about $1 billion in sales each year since 2010, which puts $20 billion in sales by 2020 — its “growth ambition,” according to executives — within reach. Last year, sales totaled $13 billion and are projected to increase as much as 9.5 percent this year.

Adding Rack stores is important to that growth, according to Blake Nordstrom, one of three brothers and a second cousin now running the company. In last month’s second-quarter earnings call, he labeled Rack “an important element of our strategy to gain new customers.”

“The Rack business now represents our biggest source of new customers, attracting around 4 million in 2014,” he said. “The Rack also serves as an entry point to the Nordstrom brand, providing an opportunity for customers to cross-shop.”

Some 1 million shoppers did that last year, he said, shifting to a full-line store, “the core of our brand.”

That would be hard for us to do right now, since the closest Nordstrom is in White Plains.

But you never know.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]

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