Nordstrom in Canada – Customers, meet Service

In just two short weeks, Nordstrom’s first store in Canada opens in Calgary. On August 28, I had the opportunity to join the media preview tour of the new store.

ChinookCentreCalgary Chinook Centre

Nordstrom is renowned for its customer service. Visiting a store is like stepping into a world of personal attention and pampering. As Nordstrom spokesperson John Bailey says, “Nordstrom started in 1901 as a shoe store, where staff got down on one knee to serve customers.” That philosophy permeates all departments today.

Many, including me, have been wondering whether Nordstrom will be able to deliver on this sterling brand promise in Alberta.

Why is Alberta different? Our booming economy means that it is hard to find qualified staff for customer service positions, be they in stores, restaurants, or hotels. Often, front line service positions are filled by people who are working there until their “real” career comes along. Many positions are part-time, meaning that staff don’t have the opportunity to become fully engaged in the company culture. (Now, before I get angry comments, please note that I have indeed experienced superior customer service in Alberta shops, but tend to be the exception not the rule.)

Contrast that with career salespeople at Nordstrom stores in the US and you will see all the difference in the world. So I was interested in how Nordstrom intends to deliver this same level of service in Canada.

Shelia and John Shelia Wooldridge with John Bailey on the store media tour

Firstly, store manager Shelia Wooldridge proudly tells me she has hired 530 staff (out of 2,500 applicants) for the 140,000 square foot store. Wow. That’s more than double the number of staff at a typical big box store. Already, I’m impressed.

Then, as we are wandering through the store, we see classrooms set up in every department where new salespeople are undergoing a whopping three weeks of intensive product knowledge training. This is after the senior managers spent nine weeks immersed in the Nordstrom culture in Seattle.

Handbag PKStaff from the handbags department during in store training

As I observed the staff in training, I noticed how keenly they were listening to the presenters. I noticed how engaged they were in understanding the different brands, their respective features and benefits, the importance of fit – and more.

I’m excited to experience this level of customer service in Calgary. The store opens September 19th with a pre-opening ‘beauty bash’ for customers queued up to enter the store. Beauty experts will work the line, offering makeup consultations, touch ups and more. Doors to the store open promptly at 9:30.

If you wish to travel in comfort from Edmonton to Calgary, check my Girls’ Day Out tour here.


NOTE: I paid for all my own expenses to attend the media preview tour.

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