Best of Orange County 2017: Best department store

1. Nordstrom

Multiple locations


Early 2017 witnessed a first: the closing of a Nordstrom store in Orange County. The 29-year-old MainPlace store in Santa Ana closed due partly to performance issues, the Seattle-based retailer told the Register.

But Register readers, who voted the chain No. 1, needn’t worry. There are five remaining full-line Nordstrom stores in the county, plus seven Nordstrom Racks, including a new location in Tustin. And the chain extensively remodeled its South Coast Plaza store this year.

The company is weathering the contraction of the department store industry better than most, closing just one other full-line store – in downtown San Diego – since mid-2016. Prospects for its off-price Rack stores are considered especially bright by industry analysts.

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Projections for the industry include continued soft foot traffic. A new challenge is Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe, which allows people to order items and try them on at home before paying for them.

But Nordstrom depends on its reputation for customer service to bring people in.

“Our customers are the No. 1 reason that we open our doors every day, and it has been a privilege to build relationships in Orange County over the past 40 years,” said Leslie Martin, senior vice president and regional manager. “We appreciate the daily opportunity to serve customers on their terms and create memorable experiences for them.”

2. Macy’s

Multiple locations


After closing its Irvine Spectrum store in 2016 as part of a nationwide trimming, Macy’s operates eight stores in Orange County.

Its Laguna Hills store is part of a major transition of the outdated mall it calls home into an urban village concept.

The retail giant has been struggling against the shift to online shopping, reporting a decline in same-store sales of 4.6 percent for its first quarter of 2017.

One strategy is to cater to the growing demand for off-price merchandise – name-brand items sold at a discount. The chain has been opening Backstage shops inside many of its stores, though none yet in California. The shops, which the chain hopes will draw T.J. Maxx and Ross shoppers, have frequently changing merchandise intended to inspire shoppers to return more often.

The chain is also adding in-store Bluemercury beauty shops, similar to the stand-alone store in…

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