Half of Nordstrom Sales Disappear, and Digital Won't Save It

Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE: JWN) suffered a decline of more than 50% in revenue in the most recent quarter. Digital sales, which were 61% of total revenue, are not enough to salvage the ravaged results. Despite their growth, they cannot overcome the crash of brick-and-mortar numbers. Its results are not terribly different from others in the department store industry.

Total revenue in the quarter was $1.78 billion, down from $3.78 billion in the same quarter the year before. Nordstrom swung to a loss of $255 million from a net profit of $141 million in the year-ago period. Digital sales were 30% of the total last year. The company attributed most of the increase to the fact that its stores were closed over most of the quarter.

There is no question that Nordstrom will open all or most of its stores. The count and duration will be based on the severity of what is now a geographically rolling pandemic, which has moved from primarily the northeast to the south and west of the country. And the pace may slow somewhat in the next month or two. Many epidemiologists and health officials expect it will be back again in late fall or early winter. Couple that with the fact that may coincide with the flu season.

Nordstrom may keep some of its customers who migrate online. There, it faces Amazon and the e-commerce operations of other department store companies. At least its physical stores are somewhat removed from competition, even though in some locations it may be by just a few hundred yards. Online, there is no such thing as distancing, beyond typing a new name into a browser.

Nordstrom’s abysmal numbers are a reminder that what was left of brick-and-mortar retail is cratering faster than it was at the start of the year. The critical holiday season is only two months away, and the tide will be against Nordstrom and retailers like it.