Short Pump Town Center is losing Nordstrom, one of its highbrow anchor tenants.
The Seattle-based retailer is permanently closing its store, the chain confirmed Thursday afternoon.
The 120,000-square-foot store, which opened in September 2003 when the mall did, is one of 16 full-line stores that Nordstrom is permanently shuttering across the country.
“We have had a good run with Nordstrom and have been very fortunate that they were with us since the beginning,” said Thomas E. “Tommy” Pruitt, whose family’s development company Pruitt Associates was one of the mall’s original developers and now owns 33.3% of the shopping center.
“I am not happy to see them leave,” Pruitt said.
Nordstrom told Brookfield Properties — one of the nation’s largest mall operators, which owns the remaining part of Short Pump Town Center — that its store there would not reopen, Pruitt said. Nordstrom temporarily closed all of its 378 stores in 40 states on March 17 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“These types of decisions are never easy because we realize what this means for our employees,” a Nordstrom spokeswoman said in a statement. “We selected these 16 stores based on a variety of factors, including the unique needs of the market, the current state of our business and real estate agreements.”
The chain had said Tuesday that it was permanently closing 16 of its 116 full-line stores and making other expense cuts in order to strengthen its business for the long-term. At the time of the announcement, it didn’t identify which stores would close.
The upscale retailer has been hit hard in recent years by falling sales and disappointing earnings.
“Our goal is to best position ourselves to serve customers in each market where we operate,” the spokeswoman said. “Because of the impacts COVID-19 has had on our business, we need to take a critical look at the physical footprint of our stores to determine which we will continue to operate. To respond to the impacts of COVID-19 and ensure we’re able to continue serving customers well into the future, we will be closing 16 of our fleet of full-line stores, including Nordstrom Richmond.”
Employees here and at the chain’s stores in the Southeast were told during an online meeting Thursday morning that Short Pump and other stores, including those in Miami, Naples, Fla., and Annapolis, Md., were closing.
Landing Nordstrom at Short Pump Town Center in western Henrico County was a coup for the mall’s developers and for retailing in the Richmond region.
Nordstrom announced in April 2000 that it would be an anchor tenant along with Dillard’s and Hecht’s (now Macy’s) at the 1.2 million-square-foot shopping center.
It meant affluent consumers in the Richmond region could shop locally rather than drive to Tysons Corner Center in Northern Virginia to shop at Nordstrom and other trendy stores in the Washington area.
“We are thankful that they have been with us. They have been great partners,” Pruitt said.
Nordstrom began thinking about putting a store in the Richmond market when the chain opened in Tysons Corner Center in 1988 as the retailer’s first store on the East Coast.
In a 2003 interview, Pete Nordstrom, now the retailer’s president and chief brand officer, said the chain was ready for Richmond and Richmond was ready for it.
“We are going to Richmond because we want to be in Richmond, that is for sure,” Nordstrom said in that 2003 interview. “That is a center we have a lot of confidence in.”
Pruitt said the retailer’s departure will give the mall’s owners an opportunity to do something new or different in that space.
“They are at the front door of our mall,” he said. “Out of this will be an opportunity to do something with that site. It could be more restaurants or mixed use.”
Similar circumstances happened when the department store retailer Lord & Taylor had committed to putting a store at Short Pump 20 years ago but later decided not to build one, Pruitt said.
As a result, the mall’s owners reconfigured that then-open space and landed Saxon Shoes, The Cheesecake Factory, Orvis and Urban Outfitters.
“We made that a beautiful wing,” he said.
Brookfield Properties is an expert in repurposing malls, Pruitt said.
Losing Nordstrom has some tenants at Short Pump concerned.
“Being a prominent tenant in the Short Pump Town Center, they were a big draw in traffic to the mall,” said Kevin Reardon, co-owner of Franco’s Fine Clothier, a men’s clothing retailer that has been at the mall since it opened. It also has a location on Lakeside Avenue.
“It also benefited our store having them as neighbors,” Reardon said. “There is a kinship amongst most retailers in that if one has a customer that they cannot help, we do not hesitate to refer a customer to our fellow retailer down the road. We shared that with Nordstrom, as we do with our fellow local shops, and likewise benefited from that relationship.”
Gary Weiner, president of Saxon Shoes, which has operated a store at the mall since 2005, said the closing could hurt the shopping center.
“Nordstrom is a premier and quality retailer, and they bring good shoppers to their stores,” Weiner said. “It is going to do away with some traffic, that’s for sure.”
Nordstrom, which began in 1901 as a shoe retailer in downtown Seattle, is known for carrying a wide selection of shoes, including hard-to-find sizes and widths.
“It will be one less place in the mall to buy shoes and that may help our odds a little bit,” Weiner said. “But we would like every retailer to do well because if they do well that means we will be doing well. We like everybody to win.”
Nordstrom is restructuring its operations to increase its flexibility to focus more on its online operations.
It has been closing a handful of underperforming full-line stores in the past couple of years, including the 160,000-square-foot store at the MacArthur Center mall in downtown Norfolk in April 2019. Analysts have said those closings were necessary strategically.
In Virginia, the chain continues to operate two full-line stores — in Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and at Tysons Corner — and seven off-price stores called Nordstrom Rack.
The company has been spending money in recent years “to keep pace with rapidly changing customer expectations. The impact of COVID-19 is only accelerating the importance of these capabilities in serving customers,” Erik Nordstrom, the retailer’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.
“More than ever, we need to work with flexibility and speed,” he said. “Our market strategy helps with both, bringing inventory closer to where customers live and work, allowing us to use our stores as fulfillment centers to get products to customers faster.”