Nordstrom Tests Mobile Checkout, Acquires Private Sale Web Site

Nordstrom's in-store mobile initiative has expanded to include testing mobile checkout, along with store associates using mobile devices for customer service and clienteling functions. Nordstrom has already equipped its stores with WiFi, laying the groundwork for a wide range of mobile technology deployments.

"We're now in the process of developing additional mobile capabilities on our sales floor, including testing mobile checkout and equipping our salespeople with better tools at point of sale," said the retailer's president Blake Nordstrom during a recent conference call discussing fourth-quarter financial results. "We should be able to implement this on a broader scale later this year, and we will continue exploring ways to make our sales floor more responsive to the mobile customer."

When he announced the company's mobile initiative earlier this month, Nordstrom gave examples of ways the technology could enhance the shopping experience. A customer in a dressing room would be able to text or call an employee to get a different-sized item brought to them, or an employee noting that a customer was leaving the store could use the device to send a thank-you note for visiting or making a purchase.

In addition to its in-store mobile plans, Nordstrom is also expanding its online presence with the purchase of HauteLook, a "private sale" site offering discounts on designer items to its four million-plus members for short periods of time (generally 36 to 48 hours). Nordstrom paid $180 million for the site, which will operate as an independent wholly owned subsidiary.

"The online business is an important cornerstone of our growth strategy, and HauteLook will contribute to our overall results in this space," said Nordstrom. "We know the way our customers shop for fashion is changing rapidly. HauteLook provides a platform of speed, capability and innovation to support our customer-driven strategy."

Private sale sites like HauteLook and its competitors Gilt Groupe, Rue La La and Ideeli thrived during the recession by building on a combination of bargain-hungry consumers and the availability of overstocked inventory they could acquire at deep discounts. Now that there has been some solid economic growth and retailers are right-sizing their inventories, it's a question as to whether such sites can continue to build customer excitement and sales.

Overall Nordstrom had a strong quarter, with same-store sales up 6.7% compared to the same period the previous year. Net sales for Nordstrom's Q4, which ended January 29, 2011, were $2.82 billion, a 10.9 increase over the same period in 2009-2010. For the entire fiscal year, Nordstrom's total net sales of $9.31 billion were the highest in the company's history.

For related content see: Nordstrom Announces In-Store Mobile Device Rollout Plans
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