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Shop where you are welcome: Nordstrom philosophy reflects, supports diversity

According to Al McFarlane, President of Midwest Black Publishers Coalition, the hospitality and service environment at Nordstrom shows the company’s commitment to engaging people of color, and all it customers, with respect and appreciation. According to Al McFarlane, President of Midwest Black Publishers Coalition, the hospitality and service environment at Nordstrom shows the company’s commitment to engaging people of color, and all it customers, with respect and appreciation. Too often, he said, some department stores and discount stores treat Black shoppers with hostility and suspicion. "Too often," he said, "those of us who are African American, Asian or Latino feel there is ambivalence toward our patronage. My experience has been that Nordstrom is a place where there is an attitude of welcome and appreciation, an attitude that doesn’t second-guess us. That’s the way I want to be treated. I’m glad this company is one that teaches its employees to respect all of its customers. Nordstrom customer service means something special to communities of color."

That employee attitude, said Linda Finn, Nordstrom Executive Vice President of Marketing, is in complete keeping with the company’s philosophy of customer service. "We do have a strong commitment to the customer, all customers. We have a commitment to diversity in terms of our work force and in terms of what we do in the community.

Addressing Black, Asian, and Hispanic newspaper owners at the multicultural marketing summit November 21 at Mall of America, Finn described in detail Nordstrom cultural values, "some of the things that make us Nordstrom and give us, perhaps, a unique way that we approach our business."

Finn described Nordstrom’s beginning in 1901 as a small business started by Swedish immigrant John W. Nordstrom, who partnered in Seattle with his friend Carl Wallin to open a shoe store. "John Nordstrom’s philosophy still is alive in our company. He believed in serving every customer, one customer at a time. As most people know, we have a lot of sizes in shoes. His philosophy was that if the manufacturer makes the shoe, we’re going to carry it in the store. Our heritage in the shoe business has given us an appreciation of probably the hardest kind of customer service, when our people are literally on their knees in front of a customer, trying to fit a shoe. That culture and commitment is very much alive in our company, today." She added that Nordstrom adheres to a policy of promotion from within whereby employees advance from entry level. "That’s an important part of our culture. Nobody comes in as a buyer or store manager. They start as a sales person and learn the business and the customer service from the ground up. Because of that, we are able to perpetuate our culture. The foundations of our business remain the same."

"We firmly believe", said Finn, "our sales people and sales support people in our stores, who are interacting with the customer day in and day out, are the cornerstone. The most important employees we have are the people who are interacting with the public every single day on our selling floor."

Finn stressed the matter of values. "We have respect for all people. Some of that is directly related to the whole story of John W. Nordstrom and how he came to the U.S., not being able to speak English. Most of it, however, is just that we believe we’re in the relationship business and every single customer counts. We’re going to have people who screw it up, but that is never our intent. We always intend to treat each customer equally and we don’t tolerate it when people don’t treat the customer right. Treating customers the way you would want to be treated is an important part of our culture."

Linda Finn said Nordstrom honors diversity. At Nordstrom, diversity is more than a buzzword or catchphrase. Diversity serves as a tenet of the company’s business practices. "Part of our culture is valuing diversity in the workforce. Nordstrom has close to 40 percent

January 5, 2004
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