It's kind of ironic, really -- many people probably see Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) as the retail world's opposing poles. One tries to offer a huge range of discount merchandise in a nearly warehouse-like setting, while the other focuses on high-end goods and a distinct commitment to customer service. Yet Nordstrom seems to have copied the Wal-Mart playbook to its own benefit.

I'm referring to Nordstrom's ongoing efforts to harness technology for inventory management and cost control. Not only has this allowed Nordstrom to enhance its best-in-class inventory turnover (which frees up capital otherwise mired in inventory), but also it has streamlined overall store management and improved margins.

Those benefits continued in the second quarter. Nordstrom posted nearly 8% revenue growth as same-store sales increased by more than 6%. Gross margins, though, improved by 110 basis points, and operating margin ticked up by 240 points. That led to a 39% increase in net income for the period.

Given high energy prices and a prolonged high-end retailing boom, some believe that luxury retailers such as Nordstrom or Coach (NYSE:COH) are primed for a fall. But the market's pessimists have been saying this for a while, and it hasn't happened yet. Someday, the boom in high-end retailing will falter. But on Wall Street, at least, being too early with a call is essentially the same as being wrong.

Nordstrom is not posting the blockbuster same-store sales growth of teen-oriented retailers such as American Eagle Outfitters (NASDAQ:AEOS) or Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF), nor the strong numbers seen at female-oriented retailers such as bebe (NASDAQ:BEBE) or Chico's (NYSE:CHS). Heck, management is even projecting a modest slowdown from its second-quarter momentum. But so long as Nordstrom still has the opportunity to dig deeper into the wallets of the affluent and buoy margins with improved back-office systems, there will be a bit of a luster to this stock.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).