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Even Competitors Agree : Nordstrom Seen as Good for All

May 02, 1985|BARBARA BAIRD | Times Staff Writer

The opening of Nordstrom in the Westside Pavilion on Friday is being greeted by competing merchants with optimism rather than apprehension.

Nordstrom is a top fashion retailer that might well intimidate other merchants, but officials at Westside shopping centers say they are expecting the new $19.7-million, 145,000-square-foot store in West Los Angeles to bring more business to the area.

Officials at Beverly Center, Century City Shopping Center and Santa Monica Place said that while some merchants are wary of the new mall, the Westside is such a strong retail area that it can afford the added competition.

Marketing research done during the planning for Westside Pavilion found that more than 600,000 residents live within five miles of the center and nearly 1 million are within seven miles. The 1980 U.S. Census showed that the average household income for the area was $35,000, the highest in Los Angeles County, and the projected average income for 1985 was $44,000.

"In other areas when a new center opens, business will fall off a little, and it takes about a year to come back," said Keith MacRae, manager of Beverly Center.

"But the Westside is so vital and business has been so good that it might be a shot in the arm (when Nordstrom opens)," he said. "With their increased advertising, it will bring a new awareness of the marketplace."

Merchants said that if sales suffer, it will be temporary.

"There is no question that they are going to have an impact, at least a little bit in the beginning," said Michael Strle, general manager of Century City Shopping Center. Shoppers will want to check out Nordstrom because "it's the new kid in town."

Buyer Interest

But in the long run, shopping center managers predicted, sales will increase overall.

There is a synergistic effect when a strong new store comes on the scene, they said: It generates buyer interest that, in turn, benefits fellow retailers.

Managers of competing shopping centers said the Westside area is so strong economically that it can support a great deal of retail business.

"There is a lot more room to support additional retail here," said Linda Smith Frost, marketing manager for Santa Monica Place. "This area is very densely populated and very affluent. What that means is a lot of dollars are available for retail trade."

40 Stores in West

Nordstrom, with 40 stores in six Western states, is a formidable competitor, with sales of $983 million in 1984, up 25% from $788 million in 1983, according to the company's annual report. Its sales have more than tripled from $298 million in 1978, the year it opened its first Southern California store, at South Coast Plaza.

Nordstrom outstrips other fashion specialty stores, with sales per square foot averaging $248 in 1983. That far exceeds the national average of $100 for department stores, which sell hard goods, such as appliances, as well as fashions.

Nordstrom at South Coast Plaza racked up sales of $68.9 million last year, surpassing all other fashion specialty and department stores in Southern California, said Betsy Sanders, vice president. Statewide, only Macy's in San Francisco outsells the South Coast Plaza store, she said.

The West Los Angeles store will co-anchor the new shopping center with a newly remodeled May Co.

151 Stores in Pavilion

Westside Pavilion, located on Pico Boulevard between Overland Avenue and Westwood Boulevard, is scheduled to open with 149 stores in addition to Nordstrom and May Co. on May 31.

Sanders said that because the Westside has such a strong economic base, Nordstrom had been searching for a store site here for several years before settling on Westside Pavilion.

The Seattle-based chain has three other stores in Los Angeles County: in the Glendale Galleria, in Topanga Plaza and in the South Bay Galleria, where Nordstrom opened six weeks ago. Three more stores are scheduled to open this year in California.

Shopping Near Home

The company's marketing studies showed that, until now, Westside customers traveled to the South Coast Plaza store in Orange County, Sanders said. With the opening of the store here, Nordstrom customers are more likely to stay in the Westside and shop among local merchants, she said.

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