Metro, News

Nordstrom to close at Providence Place

Political community debates economic impact of department store’s closure, replacement

Contributing Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2018

Nordstrom announced last Tuesday that it will be closing its Providence branch Jan. 4. The first store to open at Providence Place Mall and one of the mall’s remaining anchor stores, Nordstrom will be replaced with Boscov’s, a family-owned department store, which will open in fall 2019.

“We look at our business market-by-market to understand where we have opportunities to grow … while also being as efficient as possible in serving our customers,” President of Stores Jamie Nordstrom said in a press release posted to the Nordstrom’s website. “When we look at our business in the Providence market, we determined it made most sense to end our Providence Place lease.”

The Providence Place Nordstrom store opened in August 1999 and was the mall’s very first tenant. The store’s closure will affect approximately 187 non-seasonal employees, according to the press release.

“We’ve been fortunate to serve customers here for nearly 20 years and have built meaningful relationships with our customers and community in that time,” Nordstrom said.

The company’s decision to close the location is “really about how we can best serve customers in the Providence market,” said Nordstrom Spokesperson Emily Sterken in an interview with The Herald. The Nordstrom Rack in the Warwick Mall will remain open, and customers can continue to shop on Nordstrom’s website.

Boscov’s department store will move into the mall next fall, said Lindsay Kahn, a spokesperson for the Chicago-based real estate firm and Providence Place owner Brookfield Properties Retail Group, as reported by WPRI.

“When an opportunity presents itself, it just makes sense to go into a market that we feel would like a Boscov’s,” said Boscov’s Chairman and CEO Jim Boscov to The Herald.

Boscov’s is based in Reading, Pennsylvania, with locations in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Providence Place location will be the first in Rhode Island.

Boscov said that the company is distinctive for its mission “to be a member of the community.” The store’s prices are “sharper than anything people have seen in the past,” he added.

“We’re still your neighborhood family store,” Boscov said. “We believe that having people there to help provide excellent service is what differentiates us from the others.”

Upon opening, Boscov’s will hire about 300 local people who “know what the community needs,” Boscov said. The company has a vested interest in community involvement and lasting partnerships with local nonprofit organizations, he added.

The closing of Nordstrom is part of a larger trend in retail, Deputy Director of Communications at the City of Providence Benjamin Smith wrote in an email to The Herald. As more customers shop online, brick-and-mortar stores will have to continue to adapt, he added.

“As a city, we’re encouraged by the fact that there is already another tenant in place and believe that shows that Providence is a place where people want to live, work and play,” Smith wrote.

Former mayor of Providence Joseph Paolino said that Nordstrom and major retailers like it were key to attracting tourists and shoppers to Providence. “With Nordstrom leaving, I think it’s a fatal blow to the Providence Place Mall,” Paolino said. “Replacing it with another retailer isn’t the solution because it’s the wrong retailer.”

Boscov maintains that the store will appeal to a wide range of consumers and enhance the vibrancy of the mall. “We carry all the famous labels, … but we carry a much broader range of products, which means that we’ll appeal to a much broader range of individuals,” Boscov said.

Before Providence Place was built, Paolino, then-mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci Jr. and then-governor Bruce Sundlun went to Seattle — where Nordstrom is based — to convince the Nordstrom family to bring the store to Providence.

“This was the first time in many years that Providence was going to be the home of major retail,” Paolino said. When Nordstrom leaves, Macy’s will be the mall’s only remaining flagship establishment before Boscov’s comes in. Nordstrom’s departure reflects a negatively changing city dynamic, he added.

“Providence is a downtown you can celebrate,” Paolino said. “But when you see a store of Nordstrom’s caliber closing, … it’s going to definitely change the feel of the city.”

Paolino also criticized the city administration’s lack of involvement in working to keep Nordstrom in Providence. “This is what being Mayor is all about,” he said. “(Nordstrom’s closing) should not have happened. … When you don’t communicate with people, things happen that you don’t expect.”

When asked how the Mayor’s office works with local retail owners, Chief of Communications and Senior Advisor to the Mayor Emily Crowell wrote that the administration communicates with Providence Place Mall owners and tenants “when necessary,” in an email to The Herald.

“The city was not informed of the closure or reason for closure,” she wrote.

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