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I have been working at Nordstrom full-time (more than a year)RecommendsNeutral OutlookApproves of CEORecommendsNeutral OutlookApproves of CEO
• Commission-based sales, BUT be educated about the different commission rates in different departments. Some departments are much higher than others. Here's the basic commission break down (as of Jan. 2014):
- Designer depts.: Not every store has a designer section, so this varies depending on the location, brand, etc.
- All women's apparel (including juniors dept., lingerie, hosiery, etc.): 6.75%
- Women's and Men's shoes: 10%
- Kids' clothing: 9%
- Kids' shoes: 14.5%
- Cosmetics: 3% (but they are commission PLUS hourly, so that's why their commission rate is so low)
- At Home: 4% (again, they are commission PLUS hourly, so it's different than straight commission departments)
- There are different rates for different men's departments (casual sections, sportswear, men's furnishings), these vary from dept. to dept., and I'm not sure what the commission rates are.
- If you work in the restaurant or coffee bar, you work off of an hourly rate plus tips
• They hire from within the company for all positions, with few exceptions… it's nepotism in a good way. Nordstrom really takes care of their own. ALL managers or higher up's have started as salespeople. The only positions they will hire outside of the company for are corporate positions or restaurant managers.
• Open-door policy. Any issues I've ever had (and there have not been many) have been taken care of promptly and fairly by either management or HR. They also have a no-retaliation policy, which I have found, is strictly enforced. If you have an issue with someone and they are talked to about it, they do not retaliate. And if they do, they are in major trouble. But this has never happened to me.
• If you work at a high-foot traffic location, you will do pretty well, even if you aren't that great at sales.
• Employee discounts. For everyday shopping, all sales associates get 20%, managers 33%. But Nordstrom offers certain events for their employees throughout the year when your discount is higher (for example, a few times a year, all Nordstrom brand product groups, you get 40% off, or during employee shop day, your 20% turns into a 30%, your 33% turns into a 40%, etc.). It's a fairly good discount and enough to get you to spend there. People think Nordstrom is always expensive, and while it is higher-end in terms of pricing, it's not as high-priced as people think. They have pretty good sales going at all times in all departments. Think a price point higher than JC Penny's but lower than Neiman Marcus.
• Extrinsic incentives: if you attempt to open an account, whether or not you are successful (because it's not your fault if someone has terrible credit and is denied a credit card), you get paid out. Every day, there are sales contests for things like having a sale of a certain dollar amount or units per transaction, things like that. The store does reward you for doing well, and it's just nice, because most other retailers won't do that. Even if it is just getting $5 or $10 for meeting a sales goal, that's just free money they give you. Some days you might get a free lunch card, some days they have raffles for prizes like movie tickets, stuff like that. It's not crazy or anything, but they are nice incentives considering they could be offering you nothing, but they do reward you for working hard and doing a good job. I have worked other retail jobs that were not commission based, and managers pushed you to work harder and sell more, but you never saw a single extra dime for working harder. Nordstrom is not like that at all; they care about you doing well and reward you for doing so.
• Management likes to do nice things for employees. For example, free pumpkin pies for EVERY employee in the store for Thanksgiving, nice free treats (donuts, cake, candy, etc.) during the holidays, just nice little treats like that.
• Customer service. If this is not your thing, Nordstrom is not for you. Although I am a sales associate, I look at my job more like a hotel concierge. I recommend restaurants, call restaurants for customers and make them reservations, look up bus schedules for tourist customers, recommend places around town for things to do, print off maps and prices for tourist attractions, etc. If you find that annoying, as it certainly is non-retail related, then don't work here. Personally, I would be bored to death if my job solely revolved around folding sweaters, so I love getting to do something different every day. BUT, I also work at a flagship-type location that is downtown, so some of the things I do are kind of an anomaly, simply because of the extremely high tourist population where I work.
• The social aspects are great. I love getting to talk to people all day long. Nordstrom is 100% about customer service, which I love, but if you view retail as a get-in, get-out, just-stand-behind-the-register-all-day-and-only-ring-people-up kind of job, Nordstrom is not for you. A huge part of the Nordstrom culture is "building relationships" because… (to be completed in the cons sections)…
• … with these relationships that you build, you WILL be calling these people. There is definitely a telemarketing-type aspect to this job. Any time there is a sale or a special event at the store, or even just if your store is doing poorly lately and running a decrease, they will find a reason for you to print up customer lists and call people. If you are new, this can be especially difficult because you're calling people you don't know (it's essentially cold calling). You'll get hung up on, rude responses, cursed at, etc. But that just comes with the territory of calling people. If you're calling customers you have good relationships with, it's fine. But 90% of the people you call are not happy to hear from you. I'd say 99% of the time, though, you just end up leaving voicemails, so it's really not that bad if you're terrified of phone interaction. However, every store and individual manager is different with how much calling they expect. Some stores make you call people every day. Some stores or managers do calling campaigns every month or two. Some managers expect near daily calls to attempt to book appointments. At my store, I'd say I do a good week-long calling campaign about every two months, which to me, really isn't that bad. I definitely don't like it, especially because calling customers is something you are not told about at all during the interview or orientation, but it's doable, and really, it could be way worse.
• Appointments. Again, this is VERY different from store to store. My store is very, very low in foot-traffic, so it's near impossible to get appointments, but you are definitely supposed to be getting people to book appointments with you, especially during big sale events. All an appt. is is a time set aside for that person, you set up a room for them, make them feel special, like this hour of time is blocked out for them and they get 100% of your attention. Again, if you're new, appointments are nearly impossible to book. The downside to appointments (besides them being awkward if you're not familiar with the person's tastes/styles) is you might spend an hour or more with that person, and in the end, they get $20 of stuff. You just wasted a bunch of time when you could've made tons more selling on the floor, but you had to be 100% focused on that one person. I know Nordstrom pushes appointments as part of their customer service reputation, but I think it's an aspect they need to reconsider. Customers don't like being pressured into appointments, salespeople don't like having their time taken away when they could be making more money helping more people, and the only people that should be doing appointments are Personal Stylists because that is specifically what their job title is tailored for. In my opinion, appointments in all other departments besides Personal Stylists, are, 99% of the time, a complete waste of both yours and the customers' time.
• Again, you MUST be educated about the location you work at. If you are exceptional at sales, but work at a low-foot-traffic location, it's hard to do well. It's a lose-lose situation in many ways, too, because even if you kick ass at sales, once you start at a slow store, your sales ratings are usually going to be low, and it can be extremely hard to transfer to another store. If you start at a low-performing store, you can kinda get trapped there, and it can be hard to get out. Many high-performing stores are picky about who they accept as transfers, and they require a certain minimum sales performance rating to transfer there, which is your "score" based on monthly or yearly rolling averages of your sales. If you can, it's best to start at a store that's in a busy location. It makes upward mobility easier for you in all aspects, whether you want to transfer to a different department within the same store, transfer to another store, become a sales manager, transfer to a different position altogether, etc.
• During training and orientation, you will be told that pushing debit and credit cards upon people is entirely up to you. When you actually start working, you find that this is entirely untrue. This is a huge focus, all day, every day. Unlike most stores, though, there really is nothing shady about the cards (and to make it more euphemistic, they're called "Rewards Programs," not accounts or cards). Still, I feel bad opening up credit cards for people I know shouldn't be doing it. Also, it's an invasive thing to ask people over and over. Again, it comes with the territory of retail, but know that this will be a huge focus. But the stores do offer incentives for opening accounts (see the above "pros" section for examples of incentives).
• This is both a pro and con, but I'll put it here: Nordstrom's employee handbook is a single piece of cardstock that says, "Use good judgment." Seriously, that's it. In many ways, it's awesome and empowering that they trust their employees so much and enable them to make their own decisions to do what they think is best for sales, BUT the caveat is, you do not, and will not, ever receive something like a technical training manual for how to use the register/computer. Some stores, like the one I work at (although not all are like this), have up to 3 different types of register systems that are used. I am not super technology savvy. I'm not awful, but I'm not great at it. When I first started working, if I was alone in my department at night during a closing shift, and there was not a manager nearby or available to come help me, I had no employee guide to refer to for how to do some complicated ordering-type stuff for customers on the registers. Trust me, after a while, you will learn everything there is to know about the registers, but it took me months before I had it all memorized. And for the first few months, if there was no one available to help me, customers got very mad at me and frustrated that I was so slow because I just could not figure out how to do a certain type of order or a very complicated and obscure type of return (just a few examples). I got yelled at, got insulted, and lost many sales those first couple months because there are SO MANY different functions on the registers (especially the ones that are basically computers, the ipad registers are waaaaay more easy to figure out), and if I couldn't figure it out, that was a sale I lost. So, yes, it's cool that there is no employee handbook, but for examples like described above, it also totally sucks. Also, not every store has ipad registers. Nordstrom is moving toward all stores having them eventually, but at this point, the majority of them do not, so be prepared to ask lots and lots of questions until you memorize how to use every function of an ancient computer register. You WILL learn, though. It just takes time. Again, this is where even a simple technical manual would come in handy, but they refuse to provide one.
• No matter how great you are at sales, if you work at a low-foot traffic location, you just won't do that well most days. Be well educated about which location you choose to accept a position at.
• Although 90% of the time management is fair in dealing with disputes, high performers often get away with blatantly bad behavior that is against company policy because their sales numbers are good. This is also very dependent upon who your manager is and what kind of behavior they accept. I've been lucky that my current manager does not put up with this type of behavior; my old manager did, though.
• This should go without saying, but it's retail: you WILL work all weekends and holidays basically forever, especially if you are new. Until you work your way up the seniority ladder in your department, be prepared to work closing shifts every single night for months and months. Really think about whether or not you want to get out of work at 9:30 p.m. every week night, especially if you are also a student or if you work a second job. And you WILL work every. single. holiday. The only holidays that Nordstrom is closed are Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. You will work Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Christmas Eve, New Year's Day, etc. But such is the nature of retail. But keep in mind, if you work holidays, you get holiday pay, so that's definitely a plus. Just be sure you can handle that for a long time, especially if you work in a large store or large department that will take a while for you to move up the seniority ladder. Say goodbye to your regular Sunday afternoon football and nacho parties, as well as most family or friend gatherings, unless you happen to be able to request it off a month in advance. But if your family is like mine, things are planned about a week ahead of time, which means I just don't get to go to that many family get togethers, and it's hard to miss out on that time with family and friends. Luckily, I work in a pretty small store and small department, so now that I've got seniority, I mostly work 9-5 on the week days, which does make my life easier. But I still miss the majority of family functions on the weekends, and even if I get a "good" shift on a holiday (like working 10-4 on Xmas Eve instead of 10-6), I still work holidays.
• Going along with the subject of closing shifts, it's much harder to sell during the later hours. Now that I've got seniority in terms of good shift placement, I can confidently say you make the most money before 1pm. The ladies who like to shop and clearly don't have jobs come in every day almost as soon as we open, and you will do most of your sales before lunch time. That's not to say you won't ever have good sales with closing shifts, but overall, opening shifts will make you more money. Bide your time until you start to get more of them, but know that starting out with almost entirely closing shifts, you're gonna make less money and often won't sell enough to make commission when you're working 1-9:30 or 4-9:30 every day instead of 9-5. You just gotta hustle double strength to make commission when you work almost entirely closing shifts.
• Another obvious point, but it's retail, and you will be on your feet all day. If, like me, you have a disability that requires constant pain management, take this into serious consideration. I love this job, but it is very hard on my body, and I'm at the doctor multiple times a month because of things like the nerve damage I have in my feet from standing 8 hours a day.
• Tennis shoes, sneakers, whatever you choose to call them (i.e. anything that might offer an iota of foot support) are not allowed except in very few departments. I believe the restaurant, coffee bar, the casual men's clothing sections, and juniors' department (there might be another department or two that I'm forgetting, but those are the main ones) are the only ones allowed to wear shoes that offer support. If you're a female, your only shoe options are heels or flats (think ballet flats or boots that offer no support). If you can make it through an 8-hour shift standing in heels, more power to you! I asked if I could wear those outrageously ugly orthopedic shoes because my doctor said I needed to because of the nerve damage in my feet, and I was told they resemble sneakers too much, so no.
• If you are looking to move into sales floor management, it is imperative that you be excellent at sales, or you will never be considered for a manager position. While this is usually a good thing and makes sense in theory, sometimes it isn't. Just because one is good at sales does not mean they have good managerial skills. There are some incompetent managers who have those positions only because they are good at selling; they can't manage people or employee disputes, or even do other aspects of the job well, like merchandising the floor or delegating different tasks to employees that need to be completed on a daily basis.
• If, like me, you do NOT want a future in sales management but would rather work behind the scenes (logistics, HR, etc.) know that these are coveted positions that people claw their way to the top to get. If you can't work your way up the management ladder quickly (especially if you are just good but not outstanding at sales), you will work the sales floor for YEARS before you would even be considered for a position like HR. It's unfortunate, because I would love to make Nordstrom a career, but I am on the high side of average at sales, so although I am educated (Master's degree), work hard, and am passionate about what I do, I will never make enough money to support myself independently in the meantime. I just don't have the time to wait 5-7 years as a sale associate before I could get something like an HR position. I don't want Nordstrom to be a stepping stone to a different company, but when push comes to shove, it will have to be.
• Although I would say my experience at Nordstrom has been 99% positive, I was extremely close to quitting because of a coworker who, I'm pretty sure, came from the 9th circle of Hell. Her bad behavior was overlooked because she was a top earner, but she stole 50% of everyone's sales in flagrantly horrible ways. It was hard for me to earn commission because of her constant stealing of my sales. Thankfully she transferred stores. The point here is, much of your work environment and motivation comes from whom you work with. I'm lucky to now have a great manager and coworkers, and because of that, I love my job. Others are not so lucky.
• If you are not aggressive in your sales approach, educate yourself on different departments. I have heard from MULTIPLE people that are current and former employees, all women's and most of men's apparel departments are highly sharky in nature (lots of stealing of sales, needless, high-pressure management tactics, etc.). If that's not your thing, stick to departments like cosmetics, At Home, any of the kids departments, lingerie, etc.
• I have personally witnessed, in my humble opinion, the department that takes the most abuse from awful customers are those who work in women's shoes. Just a warning. BUT women's shoes has one of the highest commission rates in the store. It's a trade off. Like I said, do your research about where your selling interests lie vs. the commission rates.
• Nordstrom has an EXTREMELY lax return policy. Customers abuse it constantly, and 90% of the time, there's nothing you can do about it. People will bring back a sweater that's been worn to hell, no tags, but they still have a receipt from when they bought it a year ago, and will say something like, "This doesn't fit." Most of the time, they won't even have a receipt. They will hand you the card they purchased it on and make you look through up to two years of their past purchase histories with Nordstrom, month by month, until you find the thing they are trying to return. Most of the time, unless they don't have a proof of purchase or are trying to return merchandise that was not bought at a Nordstrom (people try to do that a lot, believe it or not), you just have to smile and take the return. The majority of the time, unless it's a large return, the manager in charge will just take the return without a proof of purchase anyway, just to make the customer happy. If you consider yourself to be an honest person, it's infuriating on a personal level to watch people do scummy things like that, day in, day out, and even worse when they lie to your face with a well-rehearsed but very obvious lie about a return. "This sweater, I thought it would fit, but when I got home, it was too tight here, but too loose here, and I'm so sad cuz I love the color, but I have to return it." BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. Do you really think I don't remember you coming last week, me putting you in a dressing room, me seeing you wearing the sweater that fit so great, and you loving it?People can be so dense. I know this is true of any retail environment, but that return, if you originally sold it, comes off your commission. That, in and of itself, is standard. But when that's coupled with the almost non-existent return policy, it can make it much harder to make commission. Again, I see this hit people really hard who work in departments like women's shoes or handbags. People basically just rent clothes for an event or a date, then return them. So, as has happened to my friends, you might have sold an $800 bag, only to come into work the very next day negative $800 because someone was just blatantly renting merchandise. Just be aware of the (basically non-existent) return policy before accepting the job, and keep it in mind when you are choosing which departments to apply to.
Advice to Management
My advice to management is explained in the Cons section.