March 2, 2021

Nordstrom in New York to Use an Alias

Called TreasureBond, the new store will open Friday in SoHo and will be less than a tenth the size of a typical Nordstrom department store. In fact, it is a big experiment that will not even contribute to Nordstrom’s bottom line, as the profits have been committed to charity.

That may seem odd for a public company, but retail analysts said it was sensible for the Seattle-based chain, which for years has been trying to figure out the New York market before formally opening a full-fledged department store.

“They’re probably trying to generate good will before they make themselves present in New York with a full-line store,” said Ken Stumphauzer, an analyst at Sterne Agee. “This will essentially give them some perception or added insight into the New York consumer, and specifically into the more affluent full-priced consumer.”

If the regular Nordstrom’s stores go after the perfectly coiffed, cardigan-wearing shopper, TreasureBond seems to be aimed at her graphic designer younger sister. The merchandise in the boutique is funkier than a Nordstrom would carry — one perfume sold there is called “Fat Electrician,” with the label showing a sliver of a man’s bottom breaking free from his pants.

Though the company has always aimed upscale, the only Nordstrom store in New York City is a discount Nordstrom Rack store.

While other retailers have tried pop-up shops to test the New York market, Nordstrom says that TreasureBond will not fit that mold and will instead be a permanent location.

Adding to potential confusion, the upscale online retailer Gilt Groupe earlier this month introduced a men’s clothing site called Park Bond.

Nordstrom says its charity efforts will go further than competitors who team up with nonprofit groups for campaigns. And all proceeds from the rather expensive merchandise go to children’s charities, Nordstrom says.

In addition, there are no plans to make it a for-profit store, said Peter E. Nordstrom, executive vice president and president of merchandising at Nordstrom. But he added that the company remained committed to opening a department store in the city. The TreasureBond name gave Nordstrom leeway, he said.

“It allows us to be way more nimble and to learn,” he said. “If we opened something like this, and had it be Nordstrom in some way, it would end up disappointing — people would show up and say, ‘What’s this?’ ”

He said the company viewed it as an incubator — if a T-shirt line sold well, Nordstrom might sell it in regular stores.

“While our name isn’t all over it, I think people are going to know that we helped hatch it,” he said. “That would create a glow, not only for this store but for Nordstrom, that’s positive in Manhattan.”

Analysts cautioned that the store would not necessarily bolster Nordstrom’s foray in New York. For instance, having such a different name will not help with brand recognition in a city where it is still relatively unknown, analysts said. “From the standpoint of branding and public good will, it seems counterintuitive,” Mr. Stumphauzer said.

And the store’s merchandise and look is so different from a regular Nordstrom that it is questionable how applicable the lessons might be, some said. TreasureBond has an unfinished look: exposed pipes, wooden shipping crates turned into display cases, and rolling storage serving as tables.

The range of merchandise is wide. “We tried to get stuff we don’t see everywhere,” said Paige Boggs, TreasureBond’s general manager.

There are housewares, like old Afghan kilim rugs that have been re-dyed, and a $300 seated resin monkey with a candelabra growing from his head. There are Princess Beatrice-like fascinators from the New York hat designer Satya Twena.

The clothes are largely gray, black and taupe.

“We tried to take a stab at being more of a downtown girl, at least until we get a sense of who’s shopping here,” Ms. Boggs said.

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