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More than 600 Nordstrom Vancouver employees 'shocked' to be losing jobs

Nordstrom Pacific Centre on Robson St. in downtown Vancouver opened in 2015 to much fanfare. (CBC News - image credit)
Nordstrom Pacific Centre on Robson St. in downtown Vancouver opened in 2015 to much fanfare. (CBC News - image credit)

Nordstrom's decision to close its Canadian stores will result in 643 job losses at its two B.C. locations, one in downtown Vancouver and the other in Langley.

The upscale U.S.-based retailer made the announcement on Thursday. In court filings, it says it has lost money every single year since it opened in Canada in 2014.

"The whole store is shocked," Nordstrom employee Roy Jiang told CBC shortly after the news broke. "Even our manager is crying."

Jiang works at the downtown Vancouver store, located on Robson St. in Pacific Centre mall. He says employees were notified via email and calls the situation "mind blowing."

"It was so sudden," he said. "All the people in the building are shook."

WATCH | Nordstrom employees, shoppers shocked by store's closure:

More than 600 people work in the downtown store.

The Langley store — Nordstrom Rack — is at Willowbrook Shopping Centre.

Thursday's announcement also took some customers shopping at the downtown Nordstrom by surprise. One was "terribly shocked" and another called it "a shame."

Cadillac Fairview, which runs Pacific Centre, has not responded to requests for comment on the situation after first being asked on Thursday.

Downtown store opened in high-profile spot in 2015

The downtown Vancouver store takes up 230,000 square feet and three floors in Pacific Centre, making it one of the city's more high-profile retail outlets.

Opened to much fanfare in September 2015, it was the company's third Canadian location, after Calgary and Ottawa. Retail giants Eatons and Sears previously occupied the corner lot.

CBC News
CBC News

Jobs originally posted for the Vancouver location included retail salespeople, nail technicians, bartenders, baristas, tailors, stylists, cleaners and a shoe shiner.

Across Canada, Nordstrom has about 2,500 employees in 13 locations. The company blames high costs, a lofty U.S. dollar, flat sales, the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of brand awareness for its struggles in Canada.

Industry watcher expected company to 'steer the course'

Speaking on CBC's BC Today on Friday, retail advisor David Ian Gray said he started hearing rumours of a Nordstrom closure in Canada in mid-February, but that he was "as shocked as anybody else" by Thursday's announcement.

"The Nordstrom family, they're not reactive decision makers," said Gray, founder of DIG360 Consulting in Vancouver.

"They're very purposeful. I was aware of the financial issues they were facing, not simply [in] Canada but across all of their network, but I would have thought the rumours may have been part of a negotiating strategy to reduce rent or there was something else [going] on. I would have thought there was more of a plan to steer the course in Canada rather than retreat from Canada."

WATCH | Nordstrom announces closure of Canada stores: 

Gray says Nordstrom's departure from Canada is "a continuation of a lot of turbulence that began before the pandemic."

"The pandemic just decimated the fashion sector," he said. "There are recoveries going on but it's two steps forward and one step back."

Canadian stores expected to close by end of June

Erik Nordstrom, CEO of the company that bears his name, reportedly told a conference call that Canadian employees would be treated with fairness and respect, and that a trust would be set up to help them as stores close.

Operations are expected to wrap up by the end of June.

For its Canadian stores, Nordstrom says it will "commence a liquidation sale, subject to court approval," later this month.

Customers are no longer able to shop online through nordstrom.ca but the company says orders placed before March 2 will be fulfilled.