How did you become a buyer at Nordstrom?
Nordstrom was my first real job after having two kids. When I started, I was 25 years old and my kids were 5 (Mark Junior) and 3 (Brittany). To this day, I still remember the day before my interview; I walked the sales floor in La Jolla, California. The female Nordstrom employees were wearing silk long sleeve tops with short, skinny, black gaberdine skirts, hose and black heels. That day I purchased the very same outfit for my interview. That’s where it all started for me.
My first year I was a Pacesetter. Nordstrom Pacesetters are the top three percent of the corporate sales team. It was a BIG deal to be recognized for that accomplishment. That is when my future mentor and women’s divisional General Manager Sue Patneaude noticed me. She sent me a note every year, and every time she visited my store she made it a point to find me. We started to build a relationship and I continued to excel. I remember when Sue called me on the selling floor and told me that I had leadership skills; and if I wanted to begin to build my career with the Nordstrom Women’s Division, I needed to let her know. Not long after that phone call, I called her back and said, “I’m ready.” I was promoted from a selling position to a buying position on the East Coast. There began my 20-year career with Nordstrom. My last position was National Sales Manager for the Women’s Corporate team, managing over $200 million in annual sales.
I loved my experience with the company. I was introduced to the most amazing people whom I respected and trusted. Because of the experience at Nordstrom, I became a better person in all areas of my life — a better wife, a better mom, a better friend. I will always be grateful for the way Nordstrom impacted my life in a positive way.
I was able to continue to grow with Nordstrom and served in several areas throughout the 20-year period — as a Pacesetter, buyer, regional merchandise manager and final promotion to National Merchandise Manager. My area of responsibility managed over $200 million in annual sales. I remember picking up $68 million in one year with one of the Nordstrom’s top ten volume vendors in the whole company. That was an epic year.
Did you have a fashion degree?
I do not have a degree in business or fashion. I did attend college for one year before having children. My success came from a true mentorship environment, hands-on education and support. I was coachable and had the desire to be successful. That was the Nordstrom culture, and I thrived in that environment.
How did you manage your family with your career?
As many women with careers and families may know, maintaining a work-life balance is difficult to manage. We moved 9 times in 19 years. I traveled to New York City more than 100 times 10 day stays, and I had many, many late nights and very long commutes. I look back at this part of my journey with regret because of the time that I lost with my kids. I can never get those days back. Not only that, I also missed making memories with my mom; for over 18 years we weren’t able to fly home for Christmas to be with her. In the retail industry, there is not enough time off during the holidays. The first market was always the first week of January. Sadly, now that I have the time to spend with her, I can’t because my mom lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 2005.
How did you feel about the travel your Nordstrom career required?
I loved traveling for Nordstrom. I still love to travel. I’m always planning a trip.
How did you edit a line?
My greatest strength was being able to edit a line which is why I was promoted frequently and managed buying teams. I found this was a skill that couldn’t be learned. The average buyer lasted two to four years before they were let go or reassigned. I was a natural at being able to find the items our customers loved and were willing to purchase at full-price.
To succeed, you have to be able to make the group look exciting, you have to have the number one and two items to sustain the sell-through. You also have to understand for whom the brand is made and how to buy that brand for your customer base. I think the biggest mistake buyers make is letting go of a trend too early, missing volume or even worse, being behind the trend. I was a risk-taker on new labels and always found time to look for the next new designer. There were many brands that started in my area, only to become corporate purchases. In fact, they are still in the Nordstrom stores today. I’m very proud of that accomplishment and contributuion to Nordstrom.
My strength was also in building relationships with key vendors and top executives.
Did you ever buy things for Nordstrom that didn’t work?
Yes, of course, I did have misses along the way. I can remember a black down coat that looked like the Michelin Man when it arrived on the sales floor. It could stand up on it’s own without a hanger. I don’t think we sold a single unit.
How did you recognize fashion trends for Nordstrom?
In order to stay current, I read fashion magazines, walked the competition and attended runway shows. There is always a certain amount of intuition with fashion trends that comes from within.
Describe your customer base at Nordstrom.
She is an amazing customer, open to new things, new lines and she trusts Nordstrom with her style. She will pay full price, she loves ANNIVERSARY and the Rewards Program. She appreciates quality and the customer service of the best selling team in the industry. She loves being able to complete her style with amazing selection of shoes and accessories. She can absolutely buy everything she needs from lingerie, to fitness, to a special occasion look. She loves that she can shop for everyone in her family.
I would like to invite you to subscribe to Shop Nordy, subscription is on the sidebar. Also available is a complimentary on-line styling, you can fill out the form on the Stylist page. Click here. I also offer one-on-one Luxury Brand & Style sessions.
Luxury Brand & Style Session
This experience includes face-to-face consultation, including personal branding, style and beauty guide with Stylist Jana Clinton.
$250 Daily (6 hours)