“Back to the future” for department stores?

An interesting RetailWire discussion earlier this month about department stores’ path to revival. Can they lean on nostalgia, and just what exactly does that mean? Here’s my point of view:

The answer to the question depends on your definition of “nostalgia.” If it’s defined by elevated levels of customer service and merchandise assortments, it continues to be a winning strategy for Nordstrom despite its current issues. Macy’s has strayed far from this formula in its effort to keep up with the promotional cadence of mass merchants like Kohl’s and JCPenney, and now its plan to open off-price stores risks its brand equity even further.

Playing the “nostalgia card” (better service and assortments) might just give the traditional department store more pricing power in the face of intense competition from value-oriented retailers and from e-commerce.

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