Nordstrom to close Trunk Club stores – Chicago Business Journal

Written by Lewis Lazare

Nordstrom has all but pulled the plug on Trunk Club, a once-promising business that started a decade earlier in Chicago by Brian Spaly.

The Seattle-based department store chain said on Tuesday that by year’s end it plans to fully ‘integrate’ the Trunk Club subsidiary into its full-line stores and into the chain’s website, nordstrom.com.

That integration will mean the closing of Trunk Club brick-and-mortar clubs in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas and Washington, D.C.

Without the physical club outposts, it remains to be seen what, if anything, will be left of Trunk Club as the brand disappears inside the Nordstrom’s sprawling department stores.

Spaly’s original plan was to offer men a chance to work with a personal stylist in a physical club, on the phone or online and then send the customer a ‘trunk’ of clothes to try. The customer could keep and pay for what he wanted and return what he didn’t want at no charge.

In the early years, Spaly was able to grow the concept as online apparel retailers quickly became popular with consumers. Trunk Club’s success in its first five years was enough to get Nordstrom to plunk down $350 million for the business in 2014.

Within two years, however, big problems began to surface. First Nordstrom took a $197 million write-down on Trunk Club in 2016.

Then Spaly abruptly exited the company before Nordstrom shut down Trunk Club’s Chicago distribution facility, costing hundreds of workers their jobs.

The Trunk Club brand never seemed to fully recover from that rapid succession of hits. Still as Nordstrom was struggling to figure out a rapidly evolving and deteriorating retail landscape, the company kept Trunk Club alive.

But with department stores still under pressure in 2020, Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN) finally looks to have concluded Trunk Club had to go to “gain efficiencies,” as the company noted in its 2019 fourth-quarter and full-year financial report.

A Nordstrom spokesperson did not return a call seeking further comment.

As for Spaly, his Linked-In profile indicates he has moved to Austin, Texas, where he is now chairman of Tecovas, a cowboy boot manufacturer.

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By Maria Ordonez
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