Liberty House splitting

The Seattle chain had held
the department store's lucrative
shoe contract for 31 years

By Rick Daysog

Nordstrom Inc. is walking away from its contract to operate Liberty House's lucrative shoe business, ending a 31-year partnership.

The Seattle-based retailer will no longer be Liberty House's shoe vendor at the end of this year when its current contract expires.

The news comes as Nordstrom is looking to open a 268,000-square-foot department store in competition with Liberty House at Ala Moana Center.

"It's been a long and productive relationship," said Brooke White, Nordstrom's spokeswoman.

Both White and Barbara Tunno, Liberty House spokeswoman, said the parting was amicable.

White and Tunno declined to reveal annual sales for the local shoe operation.

But one local marketing analyst, Marty Plotnick of Creative Resources Inc., estimated those revenues in the $60 million range.

Tunno said that Liberty House will set up its own shoe division and has offered jobs to all Nordstrom employees in its shoe department. She said the Nordstrom shoe business employs over 100 workers.

Nordstrom, meanwhile, said it is exploring its options for its Hawaii footwear business. The company may wait until its department store is completed or may open its own stand-alone shoe store.

For customers, the transition should be a smooth one, Tunno said. Liberty House will continue its current selection of men's and women's footwear and will extend its current exchange and refund policies, she said.

"We'll stand for ... everything that Liberty House has stood for since 1849," Tunno said.

Tunno said the two companies ended their arrangement because Nordstrom did not want to take part in Liberty House's expansion plans. Since 1994, the company has opened three stores in Guam. In July, it will open a 50,000-square-foot department store in Kona.

Founded in 1849, Liberty House is the state's largest department store chain with annual revenues of about $400 million. The privately held company operates 10 department stores and 31 resort and specialty shops in Hawaii and Guam.

Nordstrom, established in 1901, operates 84 stores in 17 states and reported sales of $4.5 billion in sales last year.

Nordstrom recently announced that it would open its first Hawaii department store at Ala Moana Center by late 1999. The company now says the project is taking longer than expected and the opening will be delayed until sometime in the year 2000.

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