Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One Holiday Strategy

I had been curious about Nordstrom’s holiday season strategy ever since I saw this sign in the store window.

After doing a little further research, I found an article which revealed that in fact Nordstrom claimed a 100 year strategy of not decorating until after Thanksgiving, even if they only started advertising this recently. The strategy here, then, would be twofold: to both not decorate until after Thanksgiving as well as placing signs in store windows announcing their decision and reasons they abstain from premature decorations.

In the article “Capitalizing on Capabilities” (Ulrich & Smallwood), the authors use Nordstrom as an example of an organization often recognized as leaders in their field. Ulrich and Smallwood note that the successful strategy of organizations, such as Nordstrom, relies on the ‘intangible’ capabilities of that organization. After reviewing the many aspects of what might comprise an organization’s capabilities, from Talent, Speed, Unity, Innovation, Leadership, Customer Connectivity, and Efficiency among others, I delved a little further into what might be at play here with the Nordstrom holiday strategy.

Speed: Overall, it might be safe to say Nordstrom doesn’t rely on speed to set themselves apart from their competitor. The store itself doesn’t boast a one stop, in and out, shopping experience. Further, their reluctance to promote Christmas earlier than Thanksgiving, speaks to the company’s decision to not be sucked in by a fast paced consumer culture. It might be safe to say, they would rather deliver high quality shopping experience than the fastest check out available.

Strategic Unity: This point of articulating and sharing a strategic point of view might be the capability most exemplified by the decision to delay decorating. Nordstrom is able to effectively coordinate a unified message not merely on holiday decorations but overall consumer experience across the nation. No Nordstrom store has decorated prior to the day after Thanksgiving, and every store stands behind the leadership’s decision.

This brings us to Leadership: Clearly, the top executives at Nordstrom are sticking to what they call a hundred year tradition, but might prove controversial for new stores in some markets. As other stores are not merely decorating their stores earlier and earlier every year, often allowing Christmas to edge out Halloween, some stores have even begun encroaching on Thanksgiving to extend black Friday shopping hours. Despite this, the individual managers at Nordstrom stores across the country have stood with the executives and asserted that they will also not decorate before the holidays. This exemplifies how a central message is unified throughout the company but also the managers are leaders within their store at exemplifying the core values of the company. This fulfills what U & S see as essential about leadership – ‘embedding leaders throughout the organization.’

Customer Connectivity: Norstrom's scores big here. Clearly they understand how to build 'relationships and trust' with their target customer. Many of the comments on news articles about Nordstrom's holiday plans declared, "I am now planning my Christmas budget around shopping here!" These are the customers that are willing to pay more for the shopping experience, and that includes not being bombarded with Jingle Bells starting October 31st.



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