Top Shoe Execs on the Legacy of Icon ‘Mr. Bruce’ Nordstrom

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Bruce Nordstrom, the ultimate shoe dog and a top executive who led the Seattle-based retailer for four decades, died on Saturday at age 90.

Bruce’s storied career began at age 9, when he started working at the family shoe store, and his love for his family defined his life and his work. He inherited a tireless family work ethic and was eventually asked to be president of Nordstrom at the age of 30.

Amid a period of great growth, Bruce and team took the company public in 1971, debuted the first Nordstrom Rack in 1973 and continued major expansion throughout the U.S., including the lucrative California market, before he officially retired in 1995. He returned to the chairman role in 2000 during a rocky time for the company — and then he retired for good in 2006.

Bruce Nordstrom
Bruce Nordstrom graces the Dec. 3, 2018, cover of FN.

In 2018, he received FN’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the FN Achievement Awards.

In the wake of his passing, industry friends and peers affectionately remember “Mr. Bruce,” the industry titan, and his lasting impact on footwear and retail. Here’s what they had to say.

Manolo Blahnik: Founder and designer of Manolo Blahnik

“[Bruce was] one of the greatest creative forces in the retail business who will be greatly missed.”

Alexis Mourot: CEO of Christian Louboutin

“We’re saddened to learn of the passing of Bruce Nordstrom, a visionary in our industry, whose spirit of partnership is deeply embedded in Nordstrom’s culture. The Christian Louboutin team developed a close relationship with Nordstrom over the years and offer our sincere condolences to the family and all Nordstrom’s employees on behalf of Christian Louboutin. Bruce’s loyalty, passion and professionalism have revolutionized the shoe industry, and his absence will be greatly felt.”

Steve Madden: Founder, Creative and Design Chief of Steve Madden

“Mr. Bruce. What he built was amazing; it was almost like a school of thought. I loved the Nordstrom pride he instilled. I wanted that for my company. He told me he has a bench in Central Park; I’m going to find it, sit on it, and say goodbye to him.”

Diane Sullivan: Executive chairman, Caleres:

“Bruce’s legendary commitment to customer service set the standard to which all of us aspire, and the integrity of the Nordstrom family is unmatched. My sincere condolences to the Nordstrom family and the entire organization.”

Sam Edelman, CEO and president of Sam Edelman

“I spent my entire career trying to live up to the standards that Bruce Nordstrom established as the bellwether of the shoe business. This is a deep loss to both the industry and his family. Libby and I send our heartfelt condolences.”

Jay Schmidt: President and CEO of Caleres

“On behalf of everyone at Caleres, we are saddened by the loss of Bruce Nordstrom. Under his leadership, Nordstrom grew into an outstanding retailer with an amazing culture of superior merchandising and customer service.”

Susan Itzkowitz: President of Marc Fisher Footwear

“As a department store visionary, Bruce Nordstrom not only built an amazing company but also made Nordstrom a cornerstone in the footwear industry. His integrity, honesty, and openness were hallmarks of his leadership.”

Debbie Ferrée: Vice chairman, Designer Brands

“Mr. Nordstrom’s passion for the industry, devotion to his family, and commitment to community were unparalleled. His integrity and the standard he set for us all in serving his customer were best in class. We express our deepest condolences to the family of this great icon.”

Stefano Caroti: Chief commercial officer, Deckers Brands

“We were deeply saddened to hear about Bruce Nordstrom’s passing. Nordstrom has been an esteemed retail partner of Ugg for over 30 years, and through this relationship and having many former Nordstrom employees on our team, Mr. Bruce’s influence has played a big part in our success. He forged a path for all shoe retailers and leaves behind an extraordinary legacy.”

Britt Olsen: Chief commercial officer, On

“Our thoughts are with the Nordstrom family, a family that has felt joined with ours since the beginning of On in the U.S. The impact that Bruce leaves behind with intention to live on is next level on all fronts. What sets Nordstrom apart is the kindness and care lived in its values, which it shares and spreads with its partners and teammates. The Nordstrom values are a direct reflection of who Mr. Bruce was, and to say he left it better than he found it is an understatement. We are thinking of Erik, Peter and the entire family during this time.”

Billy Price: Founder and CEO, Billy Footwear

“I never had the chance to connect with Bruce directly, but the Nordstrom legacy he carried on gave our emerging brand the opportunity to start and grow. There is no way the Billy brand would be where it is today without the help of Nordstrom. As co-founder and CEO of Billy Footwear, I am forever indebted to Nordstrom and wish to express my sincerest condolences to the Nordstrom family with the passing of Bruce.”

Jessica Rich: Founder and CEO of Jessica Rich

“Bruce was truly remarkable, carrying forward a legacy that resonates worldwide.The Nordstrom partnership significantly shaped my career and extended my reach globally. Rest peacefully, Bruce. Your presence will be missed by the world.”

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