Shopping at the New Ridgedale Nordstrom

Are Brick-and-Mortar Shops Still Relevant?

Jahna PeloquinIt’s fair to say that Twin Cities shoppers are still reeling from a recent wave of local department store closings that have included Neiman Marcus, Saks Off Fifth, and Bloomingdale’s. The shelving of Macy’s long-running Glamorama fashion show—which had once shown high-end designer collections before declining into highlights of the retailer’s budget-priced in-house brands—came as another blow. 

So the news that Nordstrom would be opening its second full-line store in the Twin Cities certainly comes as sweet relief for fashion-lovers. Opening at Ridgedale this month, the store is about half the size of its Mall of America counterpart, but for the Seattle-based retailer, it’s about quality over quantity. The new store is rolling out a series of new design elements that cater to shoppers’ changing needs in an increasingly digital marketplace. 

Among them is an interactive beauty department, featuring a section devoted to “mini must-haves” in which shoppers can try out the hottest beauty products without the commitment of buying a full-size bottle; a kids’ playhouse that includes games on a touch-screen TV; curbside pickup service for online orders; and mobile checkout and e-receipts.

Nordstrom spokesperson Emily Sterken confirms the company’s shift toward creating a more relevant in-store shopping experience as online shopping thrives. “Our customer’s definition of service is always evolving, so making the store’s environment more modern and flexible is at the root of this design concept,” she says.

While acknowledging competition from online retailers, Nordstrom is committed to its in-store shoppers—a 2014 study found that 90 percent of shoppers surveyed still prefer to buy in a brick-and-mortar store over online. And other brands that have debuted online have been using their sites as a launching pad to move into physical retail, such as the innovative, mail-order eyewear brand Warby Parker, which recently opened a showroom inside the new Askov Finlayson store. 

Many local retailers, such as menswear and home-design store MartinPatrick3, also emphasize the in-person shopping experience over digital. The North Loop storefront has recently undergone its latest expansion, adding more retail space as well as a men’s lounge and larger fitting rooms to better reflect its customers’ needs. Manager Erick DeLeon says that focusing on creating a dynamic in-store shopping environment has always been the store’s focus, though it sells a selection of its products online. “The people in front of us are always going to be our number-one priority,” he says. “We love being hosts and we love walking people through the space. We’re always finding ways to improve our space and our customers’ experience with it.”

MartinPatrick3 also emphasizes its IRL (In Real Life) customer experience through various in-store events, including its ongoing Behind the Brand series, which gives shoppers the chance to find out more about the store’s brands from the designers and owners themselves over a short glass of bourbon, neat.

These personal touches are a great reason to shop in-person, as is an important design feature of the new Nordstrom Ridgedale: plenty of natural light. I’ll take that over the digital glow of a computer screen any day.

Photo by 2nd Truth Photography