A New Department Store
American fashion retailer, Nordstrom, began as a shoe store, Wallin & Nordstrom, in Seattle, USA in 1901. Today, on Friday, 18 September 2015, at 9:30am, Nordstrom opened the doors of its first international flagship store in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver is the third Canadian city with a Nordstrom store, following Calgary (Chinook Centre – 2014) and Ottawa (2015). Three more Nordstrom stores will open in Toronto in the next two years. Vancouver’s newest high end department store on the Georgia-Granville-Robson-Howe block replaces the old Sears Centre that had inhabited the space from 1999 to 2012. The building in which Sears dated back to 1973 when it was once Eaton’s Centre. While the former building was not entirely demolished, the current building has newly renovated interiors and exteriors. Only three floors are dedicated to Nordstrom while the top floors with glass-covered walls are for offices.
Vancouver’s Nordstrom is part of the Pacific Centre, connecting the department store to the shopping mall downstairs and across the street on Granville. As if one department store was not enough, the Pacific Centre is also connected to Canadian fashion retailer Holt Renfrew on Granville and Dunsmuir. Conveniently, shoppers or walkers can now walk from Robson to Dunsmuir (three blocks) completely underground, avoiding traffic, rain, or even snow. Even Hudson’s Bay on Georgia & Granville is connected to the London Drugs across the street, which in turn is connected to the Pacific Centre.
Hundreds had queued early in the morning for the opening day. By the time I had arrived shortly before 11am, several pairs of shoes had already flown off the shelves and displays, making the shoe department appear like the clearance section. The beauty department, though neatly organised in rows, appeared too narrow to handle the number of happy shoppers who filled each row. Before you think I am being severely critical, I assure you that I am not. Opening day was a success. A customer could hardly stand around ignored without having a staff member greet him or her. Makeup artists were busy accentuating features. The department store was busy and that’s the way it should be, no?
Whilst everyone was focused on designer galore, the artistic sparkling lights and colourful 3D fibre (I have no idea what it is) caught my eye. I am a fairly old-fashioned person so if I see something from the 21st Century that I like, it means it’s IMPRESSIVE. It’s such a shame that I couldn’t capture the beauty of either with my phone camera.
Food & Beverage
No department store is complete without offering shoppers who plan to shop til they drop food or drinks. Nordstrom offers:
- Ebar on the main floor facing Granville & Georgia for those who’d like a light snack or lunch.
- Sugarfina, a luxury candy shop on the main floor for the sweet-tooth.
- Habitant, a bar on the ladies floor… somewhere to leave the men while the ladies shop? Or for ladies who need some retail and boozy therapy. Yes, that’s probably it.
- Bistro Verde, a restaurant on the 3rd floor with a view of the Art Gallery from Howe St offering West Coast cuisine for the hungry ones. Non-shopping diners can also enter the restaurant from Howe St, just before they reach Robson.
Sharing is Caring
Before it even opened its doors, Nordstrom had already raised and donated over $400,000 to four charities at its opening gala a few days before. These charities covered children, homeless youth, art, and mothers. As if that wasn’t generous enough, a percentage of all gift card sales will be donated to nonprofit organisations in Vancouver. Another reason not to feel too guilty to shop.
Three department stores within a block of each other. Now that Nordstrom has opened, what will become of Holt Renfrew or Hudson’s Bay Company? There is nothing to worry about (at least in my opinion. I’m not sure about the owners of HR or HBC think). Once the excitement has worn off, shoppers will choose what they prefer. Long queues or service? Peace & quiet or hustle & bustle? Shopping & dining or just shopping (it appears Holt Renfrew will be stepping up its game and open a cafe by 2016. Shame Hudson’s Bay got rid of their ‘rooftop’ restaurant, now the men’s floor)? Which department store credit card offers the most benefits? Are they looking for brands exclusively sold at Nordstrom?
Every department store has its own perks. For instance, every Christmas, Holt Renfrew will offer exclusive British and French goods (Fortnum & Mason, Charbonnel et Walker, Mariage Frères, Selfridges – its sister company in London, UK). Hudson’s Bay is known for its famous colourful stripes and is the official carrier of Canada’s Olympic apparel. Nordstrom, I’ve noticed, carries more designer brands that are not in Holt Renfrew or Hudson’s Bay. It even has a (blow) dry bar! If I heard correctly, Nordstrom credit card holders will be able to earn points in Nordstrom stores in Canada and the US.
For now, Vancouver can enjoy its shiny new department store. Life will go on as usual.
Bistro Verde Hours