No 'Nordstrom Lite' For Canadians, Chain Insists

Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) won't be offering "Nordstrom Lite" when it arrives in Canada in 2014—but it will be making sure its stores are managed by Canadians, according to The Globe and Mail newspaper.

Nordstrom Canada president Karen McKibbin told a Retail Council of Canada conference on Wednesday (June 5) that the chain will hire local staff for store leadership positions and send them to Nordstrom's headquarters in Seattle for three months of training. "These will be Canadian stores run by Canadians," McKibbin said.

That's a break from Nordstrom's usual practice of moving managers at existing stores—in this case, U.S. stores—to top jobs at new stores.

The chain will also ease back from its upscale image in hopes of attracting a wider range Canadian shoppers, emphasizing that its own brand of merchandise is more affordable than its reputation telegraphs. In fairness, that's not some sort of "Canadians wouldn't appreciate the real Nordstrom's" attitude; McKibbin said Nordstrom also made that shift when it arrived in Boston in 2007.

Nordstrom plans to open as many as 10 Nordstrom stores and 15 to 20 Nordstrom Racks starting in the fall of 2014 in Calgary, Alberta, followed by stores in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto.

It's a strange dance that Nordstrom—and, before it, Target (NYSE:TGT)—has had to do on arriving in Canada. Most of Canada's population is clustered along the U.S. border, so it's not as if Canadians are unfamiliar with U.S. retailers. Not surprisingly, they expect the store that opens in Vancouver, B.C., to be a lot like the same chain's store in Vancouver, Wash. But there seems to be a suspicion that they'll somehow end up with a cheaper, less tasty version of the exotic American originals.

Actually, the one thing the Canadian version will probably never be is cheaper—mainly because of Canada's steeper duties and taxes, McKibbin said.

For more:

- See this Globe and Mail story

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