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Nordstrom Recode
Erik Nordstrom, right, appears with OneMarket CEO Don Kingsborough, center, at Recode’s Code Commerce event in Las Vegas Tuesday night. (Recode video screen grab)

Keeping an eye on Amazon has got to be an unsettling reality for almost any retailer these days. In Seattle, it can be an especially in-your-face type of coexistence for Nordstrom, the 117-year-old company that calls the tech giant a neighbor.

“I look out my window, I see a lot of cranes,” said Erik Nordstrom, co-president of the company, during an appearance Tuesday night at Recode’s Code Commerce in Las Vegas.

In a talk about the state of brick-and-mortar retail, e-commerce, how his company can compete and more, Nordstrom shed some light on what it’s like to take on Amazon in 2018. He was joined on stage by Don Kingsborough, the CEO of OneMarket, a Nordstrom partner.

“We’re not ‘The Everything Store,'” Nordstrom said, with a nod to the book about Amazon. “That’s not our mission. That’s not how we’re going to win. It’s actually quite the opposite. We’re certainly interested in information that can allow us to serve the customer better.”

As a traditional retail chain, Nordstrom has struggled to get its technological footing in recent years in the e-commerce battle. Earlier this month, the company announced the acquisition of two Seattle startups to further boost its efforts in that arena.

Erik Nordstrom credited Amazon Tuesday night with helping to force his company to get sharper about who they are and where they can win.

“We’re not a price promotional retailer,” Nordstrom told Recode. “The products we participate in, they’re not commodities, and brands matter. There’s a lot of retail that’s gone to commodities, and the brand value’s been taken out of it. … Being that place of discovery — which means curation, means personalization, means having a differentiated product offer, things that you cannot find everywhere — those things are very much in contrast to the sweet spot of what Amazon’s model is.”

Nordstrom was also asked to comment on the news Tuesday about his family’s attempts to take the company private. CNBC reported that talks between the family and a special committee advising Nordstrom’s board ended after the two sides could not agree on a price.

“Our goal has always been to be the best fashion retailer we can be,” Nordstrom said when pressed on the development. “For us, the mission stays the same.”

As for whether his company could someday be swallowed up by his ever-growing Seattle neighbor, Nordstrom said, “I’m not going there.”

Check out video of the discussion Recode’s site.

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