Big-box department store Nordstrom has decided that if you can’t beat online retailers, you should join ‘em. It’s renting out space in its stores to the Seattle-based, online bridal jewelry company Blue Nile in hopes that it can seize upon the practice of showrooming. So new it was only given a name about two years ago, showrooming, which PSFK Labs has covered extensively, refers to the practice of shoppers looking at an item in-store and then using their mobile device to comparison-shop for it elsewhere. Nordstrom’s unique partnership is mutually beneficial, netting them rent from Blue Nile’s booth and hopefully more foot traffic from the resulting expansion of its Wedding Suite area.
Though it provides exposure for a Nordstrom competitor, the partnership also doesn’t provide Blue Nile products with the same instant gratification from which Nordstrom-native products benefit. Though customers can talk with an iPad-equipped Blue Nile representative, and Blue Nile benefits from allowing customers to see and touch 75 engagement rings and 40 wedding bands in person, the purchase must ultimately be made online. “This is about seeing it, trying it on and generating interest for future purchases,” a Blue Nile spokesperson told Time Business.
This isn’t Nordstrom’s first partnership with an online company; it bought the flash-sale site HauteLook in 2011 and struck a similar exposure deal with online men’s dealer Bonobos in 2012. The six-month experiment, which is starting in Blue Nile’s hometown, could potentially expand to 17 other Nordstroms around the country. As many online apparel businesses are small, it could be an excellent way for these small businesses to get exposure in a big context.