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On the surface, Nordstrom’s and Target’s entries into Canada have a lot of similarities.  They announced they were coming the same year.  They are both brands that are unique in the marketplace and relatively well known among Canadians.  This is the first foray outside of the U.S. for them.  Both stores relied heavily on their head office staff and were determined to deliver their culture in their new home.  This is where the similarities end.

Target opted for a “big bang” launch into Canada.  Nordstrom has chosen a very measured roll out of stores.

Target renovated a large number of existing stores within a short time.  Nordstrom only opened their first store two years after announcing their intention to enter Canada.

SO WHO WAS RIGHT?

With Target’s announcement that they are pulling out of Canada, it appears that Nordstrom took the right approach.  To confirm whether this is true, we recently took a close look at the only Nordstrom store operating in Canada.  Located in Calgary, Canada’s oil capital, the store opened in September 2014.  There has been enough time since then for the operators to get any kinks worked out as well as to see whether they can sustain the excitement of their opening.  Here is what we found.

This is a store that shouts service.  From the front entrance to the friendly staff that seem to genuinely care that you are finding what you want.  Someone even said “Welcome to Nordstrom!”

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Key service message at front door – Nordstrom

Nordstrom sign

The sign lists all the various services Nordstrom offers

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Another service – a rest area to just sit and people watch

The store itself is well appointed and comfortable.  In fact, it looks better than a lot of American Nordstrom stores.

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The merchandise looks very fresh and although there was reduced merchandise (not surprising for January) the store was set to look great and give the Nordstrom shopper the option of high-end brands to more interesting little known brands.

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With a combination of great service, seasonally appropriate merchandise, and a great look, Nordstrom does not disappoint. They can even entice a jaded retail consultant to start looking for her size!

So will Nordstrom make it in Canada – if Canadians have anything to say about it, the answer is yes. The number of Nordstrom bags going out of the store on a Thursday morning in January proves that point. The only issue is, can they make money on these stores? While we see them getting the top line sales, whether they can make money with Canada’s higher cost structure, only time will tell.

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