Nordstrom & Sears Attempt To Pick Up CD Sales Slack From Tower

With the demise of Tower Records and Musicland, and hundreds of specialty music stores going bye-bye this year, Nordstrom and Sears are attempting to pick up some of the slack by carrying CDs.

Nordstrom has been testing music in 29 stores in Seattle and will roll out the category to all 157 stores in the chain by mid-December, says Michael Barber, who heads up Barber Entertainment and assists Nordstrom in the selection. In Chicago, the Sears Holding Company began carrying video and videogames almost two years ago, and in November began testing music in its 789 stores, according to Sears Holding entertainment divisional merchandise manager Jim Stella.

At Nordstrom, the chain sees music as an extension of its presence as the leading fashion department store in the United States. “The key for Nordstrom is it is first and foremost a fashion retailer, and we believe there are parallels between fashion and music,” says Barber, who points out that a number of artists have their own clothing lines; Gwen Stefani’s brand is carried by Nordstrom.

“We are bringing in titles that are timely and that are right for Nordstrom’s customers,” Barber says. In fact, Nordstrom is buying all kinds of titles: from new releases to select catalog titles, compilations and custom-designed artist compilations carrying the Nordstrom logo.

In total, each store may carry about 50 titles, ranging from current hits to older titles. There are also exclusive offerings; so far it has licensed custom compilations of Jamie Cullum and Marvin Gaye, with a Chet Baker title coming in 2007. Titles featured in its young men’s section are the Killers’ “Sam’s Town,” John Mayer’s “Continuum,” Wolfmother’s self-titled debut and the Beastie Boys’ 1989 release “Paul’s Boutique.” Its young women’s designer department features Beck’s “The Information,” Justin Timberlake’s “FutureSex/LoveSounds” and Feist’s “Open Season.”

It could eventually mean big business for record labels. Sources say Nordstrom is buying direct from the majors. Barber expects to expand into the independent label community.

Meanwhile, Sears Holding is taking a different approach in carrying music. Since Sears merged with Kmart at the end of 2004, the music industry has been expecting the parent company to add music to Sears stores. In the States, Sears runs 926 full-line department stores, while its Kmart division operates about 1,400 stores. The latter chain has carried music for decades. At Sears, the company initially brought in movies and DVD games and began experimenting with music only in November, placing 120 CD titles in each of about 875 of its mall stores.

Author: FutureMusic

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