Friday, March 15, 2013

The Nordstrom "Secret"

Brett Blake is one of 50 Nordstrom employees who each surpassed the $1 million sales mark during the last fiscal year. He runs a million-dollar business selling men's clothing. His most valuable asset isn't the building or the merchandise. In fact, he owns neither. He isn't in management. His secret is his client list and his capacity to mine it.

A couple of years ago I visited Nordstrom in Towson, Maryland and was kicking tires in the men’s department when I was approached by Amanda. Amanda had let me start touching the sport coats in my size before she struck up a conversation. She did not ask if she could help me but began by telling me some things about the Joseph Aboud clothing line which happened to be the designer of the blazer I was admiring. She introduced herself and helped me try the coat on – all the while continuing a conversation about me – ‘What did I do for a living?’, ‘Did I wear sport coats on the job?’, ‘Had I been to Nordstrom before?’ Amanda assumed I loved the blazer and laid some gabardine slacks next to it, a couple of shirts and ties that were killer. My ‘maybe’ sport coat now looked like a photo shoot. Obviously I made the purchase. There is a lot that is worthy of discussion about this comfortably handled experience and we will come back to them in future entries. What I want to address in this entry is the professional follow-up.

Amanda made sure she was present when I returned to pick up the coat and slacks from the tailor. She asked me for my business card and asked if I would be interested in being informed of new Joseph Aboud arrivals or the occasional sales in the tailored clothing department. I said I would and we shook hands.

A few weeks later I received a ‘Thank You’ email that expressed in a very positive way an assurance that the outfits I purchased would work well for me as we had discussed but that if for any reason that was not the case to please let her know and she would do whatever she could to make it right.

A few months later I was informed [again via email] from Amanda that the new Aboud line had arrived, and there were also some pieces soon to be on sale. She offered to put some items on the side in my size if I was interested. She inquired as to when I thought I would be coming in so that she could be sure to be there to assist.

Now I ask you!

Who do you think I will call the next time I need clothes?

Amanda is a retail professional – they are not born – they are trained. The niche aspect of Pro Shop Retailing lends itself to an easy intimacy with very regular customers and yet there are almost no Amandas.

Instead of the proven ‘good customer’ just being informed that the new Taylor Made drivers or Peter Millar shirts have arrived, it could also be suggested that his/her son on the golf team at the University of Michigan might also be interested in one and by the way, we know his shaft strength and size and his birthday is a week from Friday.

Nordstrom's secret is not that they take returns on automobile parts that they do not sell (I'm sure everyone has to have heard that story), but that they have incentivized Amanda's on their staff. An Amanda or a Blake in your shop could possibly double your business; it would most certainly make your shop the one in your area that people are talking about. Even if I move out of state I will still buy sport coats from Amanda. There is no substitute for feeling special and it holds true in every case.