Retail

Nordstrom is preparing to reopen its stores. Here's what the retailer is changing

Key Points
  • "Our stores won't open all at once," Pete and Erik Nordstrom said. 
  • The precautionary steps the company is taking include: Closing some fitting rooms; adding plexiglass dividers at registers; temporarily suspending some services; and offering additional curbside pickup. 
  • "As our stores reopen we will evolve the way we offer personalized service," the company said. 
Pedestrians pass in front of a Nordstrom Inc. store in the Midtown neighborhood of New York, on March 20, 2020.
Gabby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Plexiglass screens at cash registers and fewer fitting rooms. 

Nordstrom is preparing to reopen some of its department stores — following the lead of Macy's — offering a glimpse at how shopping at the mall will be different coming out of the coronavirus pandemic

"Our stores won't open all at once," President Pete Nordstrom and Chief Executive Erik Nordstrom said in a memo posted on the company's website Monday evening. "We're going to take a phased approach." 

Nordstrom, which operates 380 stores including its off-price Nordstrom Rack locations, has laid out a number of changes it will be making in order to turn the lights back on. 

Many of the upgrades align with the number of ways consumers are also expected to adapt due to the Covid-19 crisis. Experts say we — as consumers — will be wary of touching things in stores and will pivot to doing more virtually, among other changes. It is unclear how long Nordstrom will keep these new precautionary measures in place. Some of them could become permanent. 

To start, the Seattle-headquartered department store chain will be limiting the number of people that can come in its stores all at once, and store hours will be shortened to allow for additional cleaning. Nordstrom said it will be reopening its Ebar coffee shops. But its restaurants will resume operations on a case-by-case basis. 

The company said it will position some employees at store entrances to hand out masks to customers who need them. All Nordstrom workers will be provided face coverings. 

It will, meantime, shut some of its dressing rooms and clean them in between uses. Nordstrom added that any merchandise that is tried on, or returned, will be held "for a period of time" before it goes back to the rack or shelf. Macy's similarly said it will be closing every other fitting room in its stores and holding any merchandise that is tried on for 24 hours

Around checkout areas, Nordstrom will be adding plexiglass dividers to protect cashiers from customers — a measure a number of grocery store chains have already taken. Nordstrom said it will clean these areas after each shopper's transaction. 

It added that it is working toward making as many transactions contactless as possible. 

"It's a lot to get used to," the company said. 

Nordstrom is often known for its services, such as alterations and personal styling, that go above and beyond just shopping for shoes and dresses. But much of that will be on pause for the foreseeable future. It said it will hold styling appointments virtually. Meantime, beauty makeovers, brow shaping, bra fittings and other services will not be available in its stores. 

"As our stores reopen we will evolve the way we offer personalized service," the company said. 

But the coronavirus pandemic does allow Nordstrom to lean into one of its most popular services: Buy online, pick up in store. The company said it will be offering curbside pickup at more locations, and adding parking spaces for returns outside some stores. 

Prior to the pandemic forcing its store shut, about a third of Nordstrom's revenue came from e-commerce. That percentage has undoubtedly skyrocketed and likely will remain higher for some time, analysts predict. 

A Nordstrom spokeswoman did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment regarding which stores will be reopening first. All locations have been shut since March 17

Starting this past Friday, the biggest mall owner in the U.S., Simon Property Groupbegan reopening a number of its centers in states including South Carolina and Georgia. At Simon's Phipps Plaza mall in Atlanta, for example, Nordstrom says it is open for curbside pickup as of Tuesday morning. 

Macy's reopened 68 of its stores Monday — the first step of its own phased-in approach. Chief Executive Jeff Gennette has said the company plans to have all Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Bluemercury shops back up and running within six to eight weeks, provided Covid-19 infection rates taper off and local mandates allow it. 

Nordstrom shares are down about 56% this year. The company has a market cap of roughly $2.8 billion. 

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