The Nordstrom family is making a fresh attempt to take their namesake department store chain private, seeking shelter from the current retail tempest, Reuters reported.

This follows a similar, unsuccessful bid in 2018.

The news reportedly sent Nordstrom’s stock price surging 12% yesterday (19 March), a welcome respite after a period of sluggish performance.

The retail sector, particularly brick-and-mortar stores such as Nordstrom, has been buffeted by a confluence of headwinds.

Inflation and rising interest rates have squeezed consumer wallets, leading to a pullback in discretionary spending, especially on non-essential items such as apparel.

This trend is reflected not just in Nordstrom’s struggles, but also in the recent takeover attempts of another major department store chain, Macy’s.

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According to Reuters, the Nordstrom family, which owns roughly 30% of the US-based company, has enlisted investment banks Morgan Stanley and Centerview Partners to explore interest from private equity companies.

However, the path to privatisation isn’t guaranteed. Negotiations in 2018 to take the company private with an $8.4bn offer ultimately fizzled out.

Further complicating the picture is Nordstrom’s own recent financial performance.

Earlier this month, the company issued a somewhat gloomy sales outlook for 2024, anticipating flat-to-slightly declining revenue. This reflects the cautious spending behaviour of inflation-wary consumers. 

However, a silver lining exists in the success of the company’s discount chain, Nordstrom Rack, which is experiencing continued expansion.

The Nordstrom family’s renewed push to go private remains a gamble. While it might offer them more control over the company’s future strategy, its success hinges on securing a suitable offer from private equity businesses.

Regardless of the outcome, this move underscores the ongoing struggles of traditional department stores navigating a rapidly evolving retail landscape dominated by online shopping and changing consumer preferences.