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'Learned a lot': Nordstrom head of stores reflects on COVID-19 impact, area support for small business

Jamie Nordstrom, president of stores at Nordstrom, said the pandemic has moved many of its customers online, though the in-person experience remains a focus.

SEATTLE — Gift wrappers are busy at Nordstrom this week readying presents purchased by eager holiday shoppers.

“Obviously it’s a lot different this year with COVID. Just about everything looks different but the holidays are still the holidays,” said Jamie Nordstrom, president of stores at Nordstrom.

But Nordstrom stores aren't immune to the struggles of COVID-19.

“We’ve learned a lot this year,” said Nordstrom, who is part of the family that still runs the 119-year-old company.

Nordstrom currently has more than 350 locations across the country. In May, 16 of the stores closed permanently.

Many businesses have been unable to survive the financial hardships this year has brought. KING 5 asked Jamie Nordstrom if the government has done enough to protect companies through the pandemic.

“Clearly there’s a lot of debate out there about what governments should be doing to help small business. We completely agree. Here we are in downtown Seattle. What makes downtown Seattle and a lot of other downtowns really vibrant are the small businesses that make that town unique,” Nordstrom said.

“And we need downtown Seattle to be really vibrant, which means we need a lot of our elected officials, a lot of the business community to come together to help create that environment where those businesses can be successful.”

In 2020, downtown Seattle has been a maze of boarded up windows, and graffiti.

It’s changed the atmosphere of downtown, and many business owners are worried what the future holds.

Nordstrom’s flagship store sits in the heart of downtown Seattle.

“Well there’s challenges for sure. The biggest one is that the office buildings are empty there’s no office workers, there’s no tourism and we’re feeling that. Whether it’s restaurants or retail stores, there are big impacts there,” he said.

“At Nordstrom we’re committed to doing our part. We feel a responsibility to be part of the solution there and we want to take the lead on helping Seattle come back from this.”

While many customers avoid in person shopping these days, Nordstrom said the company's focus has turned to how the company can still provide the best experience for customers.

“I can tell you that our team came together in a way that is really remarkable to reflect on. Specifically, year-round how we keep the business going, a big chunk of it is our online business. A big chunk of our business is done online, about 50% of our business is done on Nordstrom.com. A big chunk of those sales is shipped from our stores,” Jamie Nordstrom said.

“Since we’ve reopened our salespeople have been really focused on servicing customers even when they don’t come into the store. So that could be over the phone, via text, via Instagram and were taking care of our customers in new ways that again create new opportunities for us.”

The holidays are right around the corner and Nordstrom said the company is still committed even in the era of COVID-19 to serve customers, in person, over the phone and online.

“Our customers are looking for gifts and we’re doing our best to give them a great experience,” he said.

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