June 25, 2013, 3:03 PM

Nordstrom buys itself an e-commerce gift

The retail chain takes a minority stake in online gift provider Wantful.com.

Thad Rueter

Senior Editor

Lead Photo

Nordstrom Inc. has bought a minority stake in gift e-retailer Wantful.com and opened a co-branded online store with the company. The moves represent the latest investment in e-commerce for a chain that reported 37% year-over-year online retail growth in 2012.

Nordstrom, No. 28 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, also says that Ken Worzel, its executive vice president of strategy and development, has taken a seat on Wantful’s board. Nordstrom declines to say how much it invested in the 2-year-old firm.

Wantful made last year’s Hot 100, an annual list from Internet Retailer that showcases innovative e-retailers and cutting-edge e-commerce capabilities. Shoppers using Wantful—and the new venture, The Nordstrom Gift Collection by Wantful—go online and enter personal data about the gift recipient. That data include the occasion (such as a birthday), gender, relationship to the person (friend, son), spending limit and lifestyle preferences.  The service then returns product recommendations. The recipient then chooses the gifts he wants.

The Wantful investment and gift store represents an online extension of how Nordstrom helps customers select gifts inside its stores, says a spokesman for the chain. It also marks another way for Nordstrom to try to distinguish itself online. “The fastest-growing part of our business is e-commerce,” he says. “You have to find better ways to personalize the [online] experience.”

The investment and online gift store attracted praise from at least on retail analyst, Paula Rosenblum of Retail Systems Research LLC. “It’s certainly easier than building your own gift registry, isn’t it?” she says. “Nordstrom can continue to hone its offerings, and help consumers select gifts for friends and relatives in a pretty educated way.  A great way to keep ahead of the competition and open its offerings to more people.”

The Wantful investment follows Nordstrom leading a $16 million funding round in April 2012 for men’s apparel retailer Bonobos Inc. Nordstrom sells Bonobos clothes on its e-commerce site and in some of its stores. In early 2011, Nordstrom bought HauteLook.com, a private sale web site. Nordstrom made the deal in part to stay current with fashion-conscious younger consumers who like social media and newer ways to shop online, CEO Blake Nordstrom told analysts at the time.

In 2012, HauteLook sales increased by 40%, Nordstrom reported earlier this year. Nordstrom also reported that its 2012  e-commerce sales, not including revenue from HauteLook, reached $1.3 billion. For the fiscal first quarter of 2013, direct sales—almost all of which come from e-commerce—increased year over year by 25%. Nordstrom did not report a dollar total of its Q1 online sales.

 

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