FIT sets the curve with a new conference about omni-retailing, a strategy that blends the in-store and online experience

The way customers define service has changed,” Pete Nordstrom, executive vice president and president of merchandising of Nordstrom, said at FIT’s First Annual Symposium on Omni Retailing on April 3. “They used to want a high-touch experience. Now they value speed and convenience. We let them buy what they want when they want it.”
Omni-retailing—providing a seamless, effortless shopping experience whether in a store, on a computer, or on a phone—is the hottest topic in merchandising today. Jean Jacullo, associate professor of Fashion Merchandising Management, developed the half-day symposium to position FIT as “the go-to place for omni-retailing.”
Jacullo teaches a new course on the subject, in which executives from Nordstrom, Macy’s, J. Crew, and Brooks Brothers explain their companies’ omni-channel strategies and critique student presentations about their brands. The best presentation from the class, a strategy to engage millen-
nials with Brooks Brothers, earned a spot in the program.
Considering that launched way back in 1998, and the company was the first to integrate its in-store and online inventories, Pete Nordstrom was an obvious choice to keynote. Especially because he doesn’t often appear on the East Coast, his presence elevated the symposium into a marquee industry event.

To a packed house of 360 students and industry professionals, Nordstrom described his company’s customer-focused mindset and the “ecosystem” of in-store and online retail channels that encourages shoppers to spend more.


Pete Nordstrom discussed the department store’s pioneering in-store and online “ecosystem” at FIT’s omni-retailing
symposium in April.

The other speakers were Jean-Marc Bellaiche, senior partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group, who discussed the competitive advantages of online retailers; Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and co-CEO of Birchbox, who explained how the beauty company’s subscription-based model attracted 800,000 customers in less than four years; and David Cox, global business manager for Microsoft, who showed how the “personal cloud” will color every interaction we have.
But omni-retail doesn’t just mean beefing up the online experience. Brick-and-mortar stores are essential to the equation. Pete Nordstrom disclosed a plan to add more than 80 Nordstrom Rack discount stores by 2016. And New York’s first full-price Nordstrom, opening in 2018, will give the company much-needed exposure in the Northeast.
“If you don’t have a store in Manhattan,” he said, “to many people it’s as if you don’t exist.”

The symposium was organized by Jacullo and Robin Sackin, assistant professor and chair of Fashion Merchandising Management, and presented by the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. Next year’s conference, April 9, 2015, will feature David Lauren, executive vice president of Global Advertising, Marketing, and Corporate Communications for the Ralph Lauren Corporation.