Nordstrom Easing Out of Catalogs

It’s no surprise that $7.1 billion Seattle-based apparel merchant Nordstrom wants to continue growing its retail business. What is a surprise is that Nordstrom, with $375.3 million in direct sales last year, is all but exiting the catalog business, 12 years after launching its mail order business.

Nordstrom’s rental list, which consists of 1.3 million names according to NextMark, is scheduled to come off the market on July 1. What’s more, Nordstrom is no longer prospecting and has pulled out of the cooperative databases.

According to company spokesperson Deniz Anders, the company’s shift in strategy is based on refocusing in the retail area. Nordstrom will continue to mail catalogs and solo pieces to drive traffic in all three channels. “We’re really trying to integrate the customer experience in all of our channels regardless of how the customer chooses to shop,” Anders says.

The direct division accounts for just 5% of Nordstrom’s overall business, with the online segment driving the growth. According to its annual report, direct-to-consumer sales increased 28% last year. Web sales climbed 58%, but catalog sales fell 3%, which the company says is consistent with its strategy of shifting consumers to the Internet.

Whereas the Nordstrom stores sell moderate-priced and designer apparel and shoes for men, women and children, the catalog sold moderate-priced women’s clothing exclusively.

Efforts to realign the catalog merchandise selection with the more fashion-forward retail offerings a few years back “didn’t work,” says an industry source, “because retail relies heavily on entire collections of apparel, whereas the catalog is item-driven.”

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