Nordstrom is growing its fleet of stores that sell hardly anything at all - here's what they're like to visit

Nordstrom LocalBethany Biron/Business Insider

  • Nordstrom debuted its first Nordstrom Local hub in New York on Monday, in advance of the retailer's massive seven-story flagship store coming to Manhattan in October.
  • The mostly merchandise-less shop serves as a venue to pick up online orders and make returns. It also features on-site tailoring and personal styling services, as well as philanthropic efforts like clothing donations.
  • We visited Nordstrom Local and were impressed by the shop's ability to merge digital and physical retail, while also catering to the community.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Nordstrom is taking its localized mini-store model to the East Coast.

The luxury retailer opened its first Nordstrom Local hub in New York City on Monday, in advance of its forthcoming Manhattan flagship store, which is slated to make its much-anticipated debut in October.

Unlike the massive seven-story, 320,000-square-foot store currently in the works on West 57th Street, Nordstrom Local is a merchandise-less concept focused on online orders, personalized styling and tailoring, and specialty pop-ups.

Read more: Nordstrom's new 'Sustainable Style' section of its website helps customers shop for responsibly produced clothes, home goods, and beauty products

Far from a traditional department store, Nordstrom Local is designed to function as a multipurpose hub where shoppers can pick up online apparel orders, try them on, and reorder new sizes as needed. They can also meet with on-site tailors and personal stylists, as well as drop off clothing donations as part of a new partnership with Housing Works, a New York City-based nonprofit that fights homelessness and AIDS.

The store is also unique in that it accepts returns from other retailers, including competitors Kohl's and Macy's, regardless of whether Nordstrom carries the same item. The effort mirrors similar programs launched in recent months, like Kohl's accepting Amazon returns.

Nordstrom first tested the Local model in Los Angeles in 2017, subsequently opening two additional locations in the area. The store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan is its first in New York City, with another location opening in the West Village on September 27.

We visited the new store a few days after it opened and saw how the experimental hub managed to seamlessly merge digital and physical retail.

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Nordstrom Local is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It's relatively small, at just 1,800 square feet.

Nordstrom Local is located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It's relatively small, at just 1,800 square feet.

As we approached, we saw this sign beckoning us to come inside.

As we approached, we saw this sign beckoning us to come inside.

The first thing we noticed was a clothing donation station, part of a partnership with Housing Works.

The first thing we noticed was a clothing donation station, part of a partnership with Housing Works.

Visitors can grab a donation bag free of charge and return their lightly worn clothes directly onsite. An employee told us that this feature has been particularly popular and that the store has already received several donations since opening.

Despite its limited space, the hub has a very open, airy design.

Despite its limited space, the hub has a very open, airy design.

An employee told us each location varies to fit the community it's serving, adding that the West Village location will likely have a slightly different feel.

Nordstrom Local has something for everyone, including treats for its four-legged clientele.

Nordstrom Local has something for everyone, including treats for its four-legged clientele.

For the wee ones, there are also a few children's books and toys.

For the wee ones, there are also a few children's books and toys.

Additionally, each Local store features pop-up services. As part of the grand opening, the Upper East Side location offered stroller and car seat planning to appeal to the young families in the area.

Visitors can also make returns at the store.

Visitors can also make returns at the store.

Against the wall we saw sleek cubbies reserved for buy-online-pickup-in-store orders. While we were there, several people popped in to grab their packages.

Against the wall we saw sleek cubbies reserved for buy-online-pickup-in-store orders. While we were there, several people popped in to grab their packages.

This area was quite tidy and already included several orders made within less than a week of being open.

This area was quite tidy and already included several orders made within less than a week of being open.

"Our local market strategy leverages our physical and digital assets to provide greater access to merchandise selection with faster delivery and at a lower cost to us," CEO Erik Nordstrom said on a call to investors in August. "This strategy focuses on gaining market share in our most important markets by leveraging inventory and increasing customer engagement through the services we offer."

The store has a gift wrapping station and a small assortment of cards for occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.

The store has a gift wrapping station and a small assortment of cards for occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.

Over at the tailoring station, we found employees hard at work making adjustments.

Over at the tailoring station, we found employees hard at work making adjustments.

Visitors are able to bring in clothing from any brand, not just Nordstrom.

Visitors are able to bring in clothing from any brand, not just Nordstrom.

Nordstrom Local also has onsite dressing rooms for consumers to try on online orders and swap out sizes accordingly before heading home.

Nordstrom Local also has onsite dressing rooms for consumers to try on online orders and swap out sizes accordingly before heading home.

Despite the general lack of merchandise, we spotted a few stylish mannequins.

Despite the general lack of merchandise, we spotted a few stylish mannequins.

In the back of the shop is a personal styling area where onsite stylists provide custom recommendations.

In the back of the shop is a personal styling area where onsite stylists provide custom recommendations.

There are also complimentary beverages.

There are also complimentary beverages.

Though Nordstrom Local is, for the most part, merchandise-less, the Upper East Side location features a limited section of hand-selected items available for purchase.

Though Nordstrom Local is, for the most part, merchandise-less, the Upper East Side location features a limited section of hand-selected items available for purchase.

There's also an interactive screen for shoppers to browse the website.

There's also an interactive screen for shoppers to browse the website.

There are several chic plush chairs and trendy magazines for customers waiting to pick up alterations or orders.

There are several chic plush chairs and trendy magazines for customers waiting to pick up alterations or orders.

Here's another fun chair-and-magazine combo.

Here's another fun chair-and-magazine combo.

On the wall is a mural of Manhattan that spotlights Nordstrom locations like the Nordstrom men's store, which opened in April 2018.

On the wall is a mural of Manhattan that spotlights Nordstrom locations like the Nordstrom men's store, which opened in April 2018.

Ultimately, Nordstrom Local felt like a fruitful retail experiment bridging digital and physical retail.

Ultimately, Nordstrom Local felt like a fruitful retail experiment bridging digital and physical retail.
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