Nordstrom Nixes Shoes, Men's Catalogs

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Shoes may be the top sellers at Nordstrom's retail stores and apparel catalogs, but as a stand-alone it apparently did not stand up to subsidiary Nordstrom.com's expectations.


The Seattle retailer, which has built a reputation on its vast selection of shoes, eliminated its Men's Edition and shoes books this week, consolidating the two into the more established Lifestyle and Clothes for Life catalogs.


Nordstrom.com, which oversees Nordstrom Inc.'s Internet and catalog business, will shift merchandise from the two defunct catalogs to the bigger titles and focus more attention on its online retail strategies, the company said last week. The move also is expected to decrease circulation, printing and production expenses and could result in the elimination of 35 positions -- a 3 percent staff reduction -- at Nordstrom.com.


Nordstrom's decision to discontinue its shoes catalog may stem from the product's traditional inability to do well as a stand-alone book. Shoes usually perform better when paired with other merchandise.


"A lot of them have never really gotten that strong, and no one knows what the problem is," Bill Dean, president of catalog consulting agency W.A. Dean & Associates, San Francisco, said of shoe catalogs. "A pure shoe catalog is a tough thing to do."


Nordstrom officials did not return calls for comment. In a written statement, Nordstrom.com CEO Dan Nordstrom said the company was mailing customers too many catalogs.


"We believe that improved integration between the Internet and catalogs will result in a better selection for our customers and less mail in their boxes," he said.


The move does not come as a surprise to Dean, who said that as online operations develop and sales grow, catalogers with multiple titles might stop producing unproductive books to concentrate efforts on Internet growth.


Last week, Nordstrom Inc. released its November sales, which were $594.6 million, an increase of 9.2 percent compared with sales of $544.4 million in November 1999.


Nordstrom.com was established as a subsidiary of Nordstrom in fall 1999. Nordstrom has 120 U.S. stores in 24 states and 20 Faconnable boutiques in Europe.
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