Tag Archives: retail

Fashion changes, values do not

It’s not every day that the president of a billion-dollar company hands out his email address to a group of undergrads. But not every company president is like Blake Nordstrom.

Nordstrom
Blake Nordstrom discusses the importance of company culture in an undergrad retailing class.

On April 30, Blake Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom, gave a brief presentation and answered student questions in an undergraduate retailing course. He began his presentation with a wide smile and disarming honesty. “We have a motive here; we’re hoping some of you will come work for us,” he said.

After a little backstory on the humble beginnings of both the man (who started in the stockroom of the shoe department) and the company (which started as a Seattle shoe store), Nordstrom launched into a discussion on the impact of company culture. “Fashion changes, values do not,” he said. Over the course of the presentation Nordstrom emphasized his company’s commitment to both their customers and employees. He attributed much of their success to an inverted pyramid model where customers are at the top, followed by the employees who work most closely with customers, and management is at the bottom. “Our business works when we live that pyramid,” he said.

Nordstrom elaborated on his company’s commitment to customer service and customer experience. “It’s all about making the customer feel good,” he said. He underscored the importance of making the customer feel empowered, as if it were their name, not his, on the door. Online shopping is one part of that customer empowerment strategy. “Ecommerce helps customers shop on their terms,” he said. On the subject of the retailer’s liberal returns policy, he stated believing in the customer creates trust, which in turn creates sales volume.

Next, Nordstrom talked about the importance of employee growth. “We really believe leadership development is grounded in experience,” he said. He emphasized the company’s practice of promoting from within and how they strive to give managers hands-on training, citing that most managers cut their teeth on Nordstrom Rack stores before moving to full-line stores. He then discussed the company’s commitment to social responsibility—embodied by the Nordstrom Cares project and its motto, “leave it better than we found it.” Nordstrom emphasized importance of having workers who want to be associated with the company and its values. He stated job seekers should make sure a company’s principals align with their personal principals.

Nordstrom ended the presentation by discussing the company’s internship program—and its 80% retention rate—before opening up the floor for questions. Students asked questions ranging from potential international expansion to the impact of social media. On the subject of social media, Nordstrom discussed their success in creating excitement and energy. “We’ve got to try new things. If it doesn’t work, we learn from it quickly and move on,” he said.

Video of Lululemon CEO Christine Day

Former Starbucks executive Christine Day became Lululemon Athletica CEO in 2008 and has turned the under-performing athletic clothing retailer into a near-billion-dollar company. Lululemon’s business is as healthy as the lifestyle the brand supports and customers who buy its yoga and exercise gear. Aside from clothing quality, Day believes in sharing profits, supporting employee life goals, partnering with communities and providing a unique store experience for guests.

At a sold-out lecture on University of Washington campus in spring 2011, Day shared insights of her Lululemon leadership philosophy and strategy with Foster School of Business alumni, faculty and students. Lululemon is bucking the recession using a steady growth model centered on customers, community and staff.

Watch video highlights of her lecture.

Christine Day was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the annual Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.