Nordstrom Department Stores


Nordstrom Today

Nordstrom Department Stores Today

Nordstrom Department Stores have evolved into one of the finest stores in the country.  Quality is what they specialize in.  The sales staff in each of the departments are second to none.  Professional, polite, knowledgeable, and friendly.

Each employee still retains John Nordstrom’s original standards towards customer retention.  What are those standards?  Or better known as rules?   Each newly hired person must live by this rule……

Welcome to Nordstrom
We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.
Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.
Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

Use your best judgement…That is still in affect if you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit any on the many, many Nordstrom Department Stores scattered throughout the United States and Canada.

 How Did This Company Start ?

Nordstrom stores all had their beginnings in the Seattle, Washington area.   John W. Nordstrom immigrated from Sweden to England, then to the U.S. in the 1890’s.  He, like many  others who come to this country, was determined to make something of himself.

Because of his working background, that is, of an individual that had back breaking jobs, he realized that there had to be a better way to make something of himself.  However, from these physically demanding jobs, he had gained ambition and drive to make things happen.

Having left Sweden at the age of 16, leaving behind 4 siblings, including his mother and a buried father, he, along with two friends, left England, bound for New York, USA.  Starting as a “grunt” in the iron trade, it did not take long for him to realize that was not what he wanted to do.  He wanted to go west.

After going through states such as, Iowa, Colorado, California and Washington, he finally made his home in Arlington, Washington,  just north of the city of Seattle.  There he began a potato farm, and at that same time, began courting Hilda Carlson, a beautiful Swedish woman whom he had met.

Nordstrom’s career as a potato farmer was short lived.  In the 1900’s there was a huge gold strike in Dawson, Canada.  Quickly, he realized the potential and headed to Alaska and the gold fields.  Starting out on foot from Seattle, then to a freighter heading for Valdez, and finally another 1000 miles on horseback and again, on foot.

Gold Fields In Dawson

Gold Fields In Dawson

Alaskan Claim Jumping!

Leaving Seattle 1897

Leaving Seattle 1897


1899 Resting Place

1899 Resting Place


Nordstrom carried 2000 lbs more than 1 mile up Chilkoot Pass 1897-1898

Nordstrom carried 2000 lbs more than 1 mile up Chilkoot Pass 1897-1898

Having the background of hard work, he slaved at finding gold for a solid two years before he ever found any type of paydirt.  Being well aware that claim jumping was running rampant, his claim was no exception.  Another miner that had not been so successful, claimed his (Nordstroms) mine as his own.

Commemorating the Gold Rush

Commemorating the Gold Rush

What to do?  Nordstrom, rather than fight for his claim in an already corrupt arbitration process, he simply sold his share to the other miner and returned home to Seattle with some $13,000. dollars in his pockets.  A small fortune in those days.

Shortly after returning home, in 1900, he and Hilda were married and within a few years, had a little family.  There was:  Everett, Elmer, Lloyd, Mabel and finally, Ester.

Nordstrom was tired of working so hard, physically.  But what was he to do?

A friend (also Swedish) that he had met in the goldfields, wanted to open a shoe store in the Seattle area.  The two friends had caught the “Entrepreneur Spirit” that permeates Seattle.

After investing $5000. in the business along with another $3,500. more in inventory of quality shoes, the two entrepreneurs opened their 20 foot wide storefront.  Both were nervous and scared to death!  Why?  Neither spoke very good english.  So how were they to communicate with their customers?!

First Sale…A Funny Story

Opening day arrived and with quality shoes selling at a whopping $1.95 to as high as $4.95 per pair, the two friends waited…..

Noon time arrived without a single customer coming into the store.  His friend and business partner decided it was time for him to get a bite to eat and so he left John to mind the store.  During his absence, and according to the newspaper article in the Seattle P.I. quoting John W. Nordstrom’s memoir, he wrote :

“Opening day, we had not had a customer by noon, so my partner went to lunch.  He had not been gone but a few minutes when our first customer, a woman, came in for a pair of shoes she had seen in the window.  I was nervous and could not find the style she had picked out in our stock.  I was just about ready to give up when I decided to try  the pair from the window, the only pair we had of that style.”   The customer bought the shoes.   He writes later that he never knew whether or not the shoes fit the woman.

That first day sale was $12.50.  The two were ecstatic!

Word spread quickly about the new shoe store in town.  Within weeks, Saturday sales topped $100.00.   Within 3 years of the store’s opening, annual sales were some $47,000.  That same year the two decided to expand.  Buying a second shoe store, along with a new location, they began to thrive.

At a young age, both Everett and Elmer began working as stock boys in the store. In 1928, the two partners decided to go separate ways.  Nordstrom sold his partnership to his two sons.   A year later, 1929, Carl F Wallin (John’s partner) sold his interests in the shoe store to the two Nordstrom sons.  Now the store was officially named “Nordstrom”.   Lloyd Nordstrom joined the company in 1933.

Not the first Nordstrom store but early 1930's

Not the first Nordstrom store but early 1930’s

The stock market crash of 1929 and extending through the Depression of the 1930’s was a trying time for the Nordstroms.  To keep the store operating, they had to sell double the amount of shoes at greatly reduced prices.

Knowing that leather was in short supply, the sons had to travel far and wide in order to keep their inventory going.  After all, with shoes being rationed to no more than 3 pair per person per year, (using ration cards issued by the government) along with the bulk of leather going to the military, it became a challenge indeed, just to keep one’s head above water, financially speaking.

After The Depression

Having gained the reputation of “The Nordstrom Way”, that is, a very high quality of business for customers and suppliers, it paved the way for the Nordstrom Department Store to “explode” onto the retail scene.

An odd thing though, about the highly successful Nordstrom stores is that the absolute WORST sales people were the brothers and their father.

That was according to Lloyd Nordstrom.

However, realizing that to be true, the brothers made sure that those whom they hired as sales people, knew their business.  Each salesperson was customer orientated and provided superb service to each and every person who entered their doors.   The very same is true even today.

With the  3 son’s expert handing (after all, they were all college graduates) of business affairs, by the 1960’s, Nordstrom became the largest privately owned shoe chain store in the U.S.  Eight stores were now open in Washington and Oregon along with a minimum of 13 departments areas that were leased in other retail stores.

Nordstrom’s 4 story building was then known as the largest shoe store in the United States, totalling an astronomical sales volume in 1961 of $12 million!

With the sweet taste of success, the Nordstrom boy’s began to diversify into other areas.  They purchased  Best’s Apparel Inc. in 1961.  Best’s Apparel was a highly fashionable women’s clothing store.  Now the store had a new name.  “Nordstrom Best” became a household word for quality.  By 1967 the sales volume now reached $40 million, half of which consisted of shoe sales.

First In Commissions

Another milestone for the Nordstrom Department Stores were the incentives given to it’s sales staff.  They were the first major store to pay out meaningful commissions to it’s people.   Thinking that cash incentives motivated sales folks to work harder and make more sales, they began a system that paid out more money to more people.  The results?  The merchandise sales went through the roof!

At one time, Everett, Elmer and Lloyd entertained the notion of selling the business.  However, their son’s convinced them not to.  In fact, with the next generation of Nordstrom’s now at the helm, they made a bold and extremely risky move.  They chose to go public along with an expansion to the East Coast of the United States, always keeping in mind that they were only known in the Pacific Northwest.

Their venture paid off.  The name Nordstrom is well known for quality merchandise throughout the U.S.

Seattle Seahawks And Lloyd Nordstrom…What Is The Connection?

Left to Right : Lloyd Nordstrom, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, Herman Sarkowsky...1974

Left to Right :
Lloyd Nordstrom, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, Herman Sarkowsky…1974

In 1970, the NFL began to plan and expand it’s teams.  In 1972, a wealthy group of Seattle investors decided to purchase an NFL franchise for Seattle.  In June of that year, Seattle was granted the franchise.   The major purchasing family was the Lloyd Nordstrom family.  The Nordstrom’s now owned the majority part of the newly formed football team.  However, as of yet, they had no team name.

Soon after the the acceptance of a new expansion team in the Pacific Northwest, a contest was held.  Everyone could participate. The contest was:  Name the newly formed Seattle football team.  The name:  Seattle Seahawks was the winning pick.

Though Lloyd Nordstrom was the one best known for his signing of the agreement for the Seattle Seahawks expansion team, he never got a chance to see them in action.  He died of a massive heart attack soon after the signing took place.  🙁

Seattle And Guinness World Records

Seattle’s fans have been known collectively by the term of the “12th Man” or perhaps the “12th Fan”.  Why so?  Twice, the Seattle Seahawks’ fans have set records for being the loudest fans at a sporting event in the world!    This was on Sept. 15, 2013 (Seahawks Vs. San Francisco 49ers) at 136.6 db.   Then they bested that db reading on Dec. 2, 2013 (Seahawks Vs. New Orleans Saints) with a db reading of 137.6.

Loudest Fans in the world !

Loudest Fans in the world !

Why so loud?  The volume of the fans was ONLY when the the opposing team had the football!  It was done so that the opposing team could not hear what the quarterback said to his team mates.  In that way, they would (hopefully) hear the wrong play being called.  On the other hand, when Seattle had the ball, you could “hear a pin drop” because of how quiet the entire stadium had become.   🙂

Seattle was also credited with what we now know as “The Wave”.   First started with Seattle Mariner Baseball, then with the Seattle SuperSonics basketball fans, and finally perfected with the Seattle Seahawks football fans.

New Owners

Back in 1996, Seahawks owner Ken Behring told the press he was going to be moving his franchise (the Seattle Seahawks football team)  to L.A. California.    Behring claimed that the Kingdome was unsafe because of potential earthquakes in the area.  Yet he was choosing to move to earthquake prone, Los Angeles, California?  No one could understand that type of “reasoning”.

What Stopped The Move?

When Ken Behring found out that the Seahawks were legally locked in by legal contract and would be using the Kingdome until 2005, his lawyers suggested he sell the team.

With that as a backdrop……in steps the Seattle Seahawks savior, Microsoft’s Paul Allen.  Allen agreed to the purchase but only if there was a state wide election for financing a brand new stadium for the Hawks.

It passed.

Seattle Seahawks brand new stadium !

Seattle Seahawks brand new stadium !


What are your thoughts on the Nordstrom family?  Do you like the Seattle Seahawks?  What about the Super Bowl outcome?

Give me your thoughts because everyone has a voice. Be sure to share this site.

Written by :   Tom McDaniel