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Nordstrom, Naples, Fla.

In the Zones: Nordstrom experiments with a new, smaller footprint that replaces formal departments with more flexible shopping areas.



As Nordstrom rolled across the country in the 1980s and ’90s on its way to becoming a national chain, the Seattle-based specialty retailer recognized the value of building each store out of a similar blueprint. Its large shoe offering, well-differentiated lifestyle departments and that central escalator well with a grand piano in play were all part of the brand announcement that this was a Nordstrom store, whether you were in Dallas or Atlanta or New Jersey.

But different times and places call for different strategies. And so, when Nordstrom opened a new store in Naples, Fla., last November, there were some dramatic departures from the norm. “This is largely a seasonal resort area,” says M.J. Munsell, principal at Callison (Seattle), the architecture and design firm on the project. “So this is a much smaller Nordstrom store” – at two stories and 81,000 square feet, roughly half the retailer’s typical store – “and it’s an entirely flexible space.”

Gone are interior dividers and department names. “We wanted to be able to expand, contract or move departments as needed,” says Susan Morton, Nordstrom’s director of interior design and concepts. “First, we felt we needed to learn more about this particular customer, what she wants and how she shops.”

What they learned is that Naples shoppers are as upscale and fashion-conscious as they had expected – but there are far fewer of them between Easter and Thanksgiving. From mid-November to the spring, says Morton, customers flock to the fashionable Waterside Shops lifestyle center (also home to Saks Fifth Avenue, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, etc.) before they return north for the summer. “Our other South Florida stores have a similar seasonal swing,” says Morton, “but not as dramatic.”

So the Naples store has been designed to shape-shift from busy winter to quiet summer. The old, more formal departments have been redefined as more loosely structured zones. Replacing the interior walls and departmental identifications are presentation vignettes featuring mannequins and merchandise propping to create what the designers refer to as “interior display windows” into each zone.

Whereas in a bigger Nordstrom store there might have been eight different women’s apparel departments, identified by lifestyle or designer brand, here there are two designer areas and three women’s areas. “We don’t want to be landlocked by lifestyle department concepts anymore,” says Morton. “We want departments that can easily grow or shrink, by season, by fashion changes, by shoppers’ needs.”


The shoe department is as robust as ever, a full offering on the main floor that includes a redesigned salon shoe department, selling the top-tier women’s designer and fashion brands. But to fit into the smaller space, Nordstrom did some tweaks. “They combined Brass Plum shoes – which are active and fashion-forward, but at a lower price point – with their regular women’s shoes and created zones between the departments that allow for brands that can bridge both worlds,” says Munsell.

The retailer also eliminated children’s shoes from the store and, in fact, its entire kids’ wear offering. “That is one way we were able to fit everything else into our smaller footprint,” Morton says.

Gone, too, is the proliferation of branded cosmetics shops that had become a growing part of the Nordstrom landscape. The casework here is Nordstrom’s own; the vendors are allowed their countertop identification. “Our stores shouldn’t be identified by the brands we carry, but by the assortments we offer and the way we edit those assortments. We want our customers to depend on our point of view,” says Morton. “With Waterside, we’re no longer a mall within a mall.”

Project Participants:

Nordstrom, Seattle: Susan Morton, director of interior design and concepts; Nancy Webber, design lead; Mark MacLachlan and Sonia Parra, design managers; Karen Percelle, Wesley Van Doren and Murf Hall, design planners

Callison Architecture, Seattle: MJ Munsell, principal; John Bierly, president; Janelle Schneider, associate principal; Michelle McCormack, director; Nora Bauser, Ching Chung, Sheila May, Joan Lockyear and Annette Hillesland, design team


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