In yet another sign of Nordstrom’s turnaround efforts, the Seattle-based retailer has created a new senior leadership role and filled it with the man who has run the company’s successful digital strategy.
Nordstrom has named Ken Worzel as chief operating officer, a newly created position meant to better coordinate the retailer’s online and physical operations.
“This change will improve alignment, process, speed and execution,” said Pete Nordstrom in a statement. “And most importantly from the customer point of view, this creates a more seamless and improved service experience.”
Worzel, who started at Nordstrom nearly a decade ago, had served as the retailer’s chief digital officer and also led the company’s recent “local” strategy, which seeks to blend the company’s online and brick-and-mortar operations.
Some retail experts see Worzel’s new role as a sign of Nordstrom’s efforts to revive soft sales — but also as a nod to investors who think those efforts aren’t going fast enough. Over the last year, the retailer has suffered flat or falling sales, and since November, has seen its share price drop by more than half, to $32.15 at Thursday’s close.
Investors “have been a bit concerned with what they see as perhaps a degree of complacency by management,” said Neil Saunders, a retail analyst with GlobalData. “I think the creation of a new role, especially one that is focused on operations, where most of the criticism has been directed, is a nod to the needs of investors.”
This is Nordstrom’s second newly created management role in as many months. In August, the company named Teri Bariquit as chief merchandising officer.
Worzel’s appointment comes at a pivotal moment for the family-run retailer. Next month, Nordstrom will open a massive new women’s store in Manhattan even as it continues to roll out major initiatives aimed at wooing online shoppers into its physical stores.
While those initiatives have drawn praise from investors and analysts, the retailer has continued to suffer from a series of recent “executional misses” in its loyalty program and its merchandising mix.
Those problems, coupled with a challenging environment for traditional retailers, have led to criticism by investors and, by some accounts, calls by some board members to replace the Nordstrom brothers, Erik and Pete, who have led the company since the death of their elder brother Blake in January.
Some retail observers speculate that Worzel’s appointment is intended in part to assuage those calls for outside leadership.
The Nordstrom management team may be “wanting another C-suite, nonfamily member to balance out that dynamic,” said Kathy Gersch, a former Nordstrom vice president who left in 2002 and now advises retailers and other firms on organizational change for Kotter.
Although Worzel is hardly an outsider, he does represent one of the most successful parts of the Nordstrom operations.
In the second quarter, Nordstrom’s digital sales grew 4 percent, compared with an overall sales decline of 5.1%, said analyst Camilla Yanushevsky, with CFRA Research. “Worzel’s prior experience serving as Chief Digital Officer and President of Nordstrom.com should serve him well in his new role,” Yanushevsky said in an email Thursday.
The real question, analysts said, is whether Worzel can extend that success across the entire company, which has often struggled to bring its various operations into alignment.
Worzel’s task, Saunders said, will be in “looking at how the business works across all of the various channels and outlets and how Nordstrom can streamline that.”