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Coronavirus In Seattle
caption: The downtown Seattle Nordstrom store.
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The downtown Seattle Nordstrom store.

Nordstrom says it will weather the crisis that is destroying retailers

Seattle retail giant Nordstrom, Inc. says it will persevere through the crisis that has shuttered stores everywhere, and forced some major retailers into bankruptcy.

CEO Erik Nordstrom told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting on Wednesday that the company’s strength is its flexibility.

"The hard part right now is the uncertainty going forward," he said. "There's no doubt that the current pandemic has significantly, significantly changed all of our lives including how people shop. We think it has really been an acceleration of trends that have been in place in our business and in our industry for quite some time and that we have been investing against.”

Those investments include online sales and touchless curbside pick-up, which Nordstrom says allow customers to shop any way they want. The company says it has the credit and the cash to get through the crisis. Both Erik and company president Pete Nordstrom are forgoing their salaries this year.

Nordstrom, founded in Seattle in 1901, is a pioneer among brick-and-mortar retailers. Its approach embraces both in-person and online shopping experiences. Last fall, the company attained its long-sought goal of opening a flagship store in Manhattan.

But then the pandemic forced stores everywhere to close — some for good.

Nordstrom has seen rivals fall all around them. Neiman Marcus has filed for bankruptcy protection, as has J.C. Penney. Nordstrom has announced plans to close 16 of its 116 full-line stores, as well as J.Crew and its three Jeffrey brand luxury boutiques.

Nordstrom has suspended its shareholder dividend. The company is using its $800 million revolving line of credit, has secured an additional $600 million in debt, and is cutting $500 million in expenses.

Erik Nordstrom observed that at the end of 2019, the company had $850 million in cash. "That seemed [like] a lot at the time," he said.