Nordstrom's new men's-only store could be one of its best weapons to defeat the department-store curse -- but it may be the only one of its kind

Business Insider/Mary HanburyNordstrom has opened a new menswear store.
  • Nordstrom opened its first menswear-only store in New York City on Thursday.
  • Co-president Blake Nordstrom told Business Insider that the company never planned to have a separate store for menswear. The decision was made due to the store’s space limitations.
  • However, this store could be a model for others like it in the future.

Nordstrom unveiled its glitzy new Manhattan store on Thursday.

The new location, just south of Central Park, is decked out with high-tech digital ordering and returns systems and in-house services such as tailoring.

But it’s not just these perks that make this store notable. It’s also because this location is menswear-only – the first of its kind for Nordstrom.

“We’ve been looking for a store in Manhattan for 20 to 30 years,” Blake Nordstrom, co-president of Nordstrom, told Business Insider at the store opening. He explained that previous locations had fallen through in the past but that this time, they “got lucky.”

“This the best place to be,” he said.

It was lucky in that they found a prime spot in Manhattan, but unlucky in that it wasn’t quite big enough to offer both men’s and women’s clothing. The 47,000-square-foot space is considerably smaller than the rest of its full-line stores, which are 175,900 square feet in size on average. This meant that the company had to split its men’s and women’s clothing offerings in two.

Its women’s store will open across the street in the fall of 2019.

Splitting the store wasn’t the company’s preference, and it’s unlikely there will be more of these stores, Blake Nordstrom said, explaining that in an ideal world they would have had both sections in one space.

“We felt we didn’t have enough space to do everything we wanted to,” he said. “We wanted to be able to give men’s the selection it deserves.”

But Nordstrom may have unintentionally stumbled across a gold mine. This smaller-scale store, with a size that’s comparable to one of the company’s off-price stores, Nordstrom Rack, is much less intimidating to shop and could be a prototype for future locations.

Large-scale department stores have increasingly come under pressure as consumer habits evolve, and the concept of shopping a limited assortment of products in smaller stores is growing in popularity.

Digitally native brands such as Bonobos and Everlane are at the forefront of this new style of shopping. These stores don’t stock inventory in their so-called “guideshops,” but they do allow customers to try on clothing that will be shipped to them after purchase.

Meanwhile, department stores find themselves saddled with large spaces that can sometimes be a drain on resources. Many of these companies, including Macy’s and JCPenney, have been forced to close stores.

Kohl’s has tried to avoid closing stores by shrinking the size of locations. It has also opened new, smaller locations that are about 35,000 square feet, which is about one-sixth the size of a typical Macy’s store.

Tailored shopping experience

Nordstrom men'sBusiness Insider/Mary Hanbury

The next big advantage of Nordstrom’s new store is that it only serves one kind of customer, which means everything can be tailored to them: the layout, the sales assistants’ expertise, and the in-store services.

In this store, there are shoe-shining stations, on-site tailors to fit suits, and a cocktail bar to break up the shopping experience.

“Nordstrom is doing it the right way,” Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer at Tigress Financial Partners, who has a “buy” position on Nordstrom, told Business Insider.

Feinseth said that the company is focusing on amenities, and this is a way to make the experience more appealing to shoppers. Given that Nordstrom is only targeting one type of shopper with this store, it can double down on this.

Feinseth said that this is a particularly smart move by the retailer, as he views menswear as an “underserved market.” And it’s coming at the right time, as male millennials are focusing more on clothes.

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