M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant

Nordstrom president Blake Nordstrom laughs as he speaks to students inside the Ray Auditorium on Wednesday inside the Wehner Building at Texas A&M. Nordstrom was invited to speak as part of the annual M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series that highlights the role of innovative merchandising in the success of retail business.

Days after celebrating the opening of Nordstrom's second location in Canada, the company's president was in College Station sharing his keys to success with Texas A&M Mays Business School students.

Blake Nordstrom, president of the upscale fashion retailer and great grandson of store founder John W. Nordstrom, encouraged students to make career choices that will open doors in the future during a question-and-answer session at the annual M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series on Wednesday afternoon. The Center for Retailing Services has for more than 20 years invited business leaders, including those from The Container Store, Lowe's, Barnes and Noble, Crate and Barrel and JCPenney, to participate in the event.

"What I believe is the case, and what I have read, is that you and your peers, in your lifetime will have five to eight career changes," Nordstrom said to an auditorium full of students.

"This notion that you're going to nail at age 20 or 21 exactly what you're going to do ... it's not practical. It's not feasible. You should think about it in terms of experiences and how are you moving forward as a person and how are you going to control the one thing you own, which is your character, your reputation and your integrity."

The focus on people and integrity was a common thread throughout Nordstrom's lecture, during which he touted a business strategy grounded in the customer.

While he listed the people and talent at the company as a key ingredient of its success and ability to stay relevant for more than 100 years, Nordstrom also noted the company's four-pronged approach to service -- the brick-and-mortar Nordstrom stores, Nordstrom.com, Nordstrom Rack stores and NordstromRack.com -- which allow customers to shop on their terms.

The Seattle-based company, founded in 1901 as a shoe store with a first day's sales of $12.50, has grown to 118 full-line stores, 167 Nordstrom Rack off-price stores and 65,000 employees in 32 states and Canada.

Nordstrom will open its first Puerto Rico location on March 26 and plans to open its first full-line store in New York City in 2018.

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