When Tacey Powers marked a milestone birthday during the pandemic, her husband opened the door to their Seattle-area home and took her to the yard to see a parade of 40 cars filled with Nordstrom teammates to celebrate it from a distance. I was wearing some really scary work-at-home outfit so you know they surprised me, joked the shoe’s EVP and GMM, a 40-year Nordstrom veteran.
Staying close to their team has been a top priority for Powers during a period of remote work and a drastically altered retail climate.
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When I was in the office, I can tell in a minute what is going on. I am in everyone’s basket every day. It’s hard to take people’s virtual temperatures and see what the issues are. I wanted to be very deliberate in my efforts to stay in touch with our people. It was easy to get into your direct reports and you had to stay focused on the time needed to check the whole team. I was amazed at the resilience of our people and the way they have manifested themselves every day, she said.
As employees faced personal challenges around the pandemic and racial inequalities, their professional hurdles included adjusting to virtual shopping appointments and heavier workloads.
They also had to react quickly to a big change in consumer lifestyles. While Nordstrom has always been a major comfort player, the retailer has planted a significant stake in the category of assets fueled by the pandemic.
More recently, however, the dress trade has rebounded sharply as weddings and parties have resumed this summer. People buy from Nordstrom for high-stakes occasions, Powers said, adding that we can’t keep heeled sandals in stock. She cited emerging designer Jessica Rich as an obvious winner. There are a lot of good, basic shoes out there, but she looked at the business differently and brought something we didn’t have on our floor, Powers said. Rebecca Allen, the creator of a collection of inclusive nude styles, is also gaining momentum.
As pent-up consumer demand fuels sales, footwear was a standout category in the second quarter, supply chain headwinds are a major concern as fall and the holidays approach.
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We remain very close to our community of suppliers. We want to fully understand what they need to be able to deliver. That means orders are due sooner, Powers said. It is not easy. Hadn’t gotten out of that yet.
Another significant challenge has been the inability to travel and hold face-to-face meetings for most of the past 18 months. Powers noted that his recent trip to New York was refreshing.
There is nothing that can replace working with the product in person. You have everyone in the room. You have the opportunity to have an open dialogue. You can see it come to life in front of you, she said.
On the other hand, she predicts that the frenetic journey of the past will not return. Our planet has given us messages during this time. The days of hopping on a plane to New York for the day, I think it’s behind us, Powers said. So choose our spots wisely on the shows you’re doing well and make sure we have a solid game plan in place. We’ll probably go to four shows a year, and the rest are doing pretty well virtually. Lots of people have talked about coming to see us, which is great.
However they meet the supplier community, the Nordstrom team will continue to focus on finding new talent. [We] needed, and were out there looking for it. Even though we love the product, we were also trying to help [emerging players] stabilize and grow their businesses, said Powers.
As she looks forward to better days to come, the executive is also reflecting on the resilience of her teams and the strength of the community at large. The shoe industry was great. We all had our challenges, and everyone checked everyone out, she said. It was heartwarming and it felt like we had experienced it together.
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