The Motley Fool's readers have spoken, and I have heeded your cries. After months of pointing out CEO gaffes and faux pas, I've decided to make it a weekly tradition to also point out corporate leaders who are putting the interests of shareholders and the public first, and who are generally deserving of praise from investors. For reference, here is last week's selection.
This week, I want to highlight a luxury retail giant in Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) and its leader Blake Nordstrom.
Kudos to you, Mr. Nordstrom
Consumer spending is weaker than it's been in more than a year, and luxury retailer Nordstrom couldn't possibly be turning in better results. If that isn't a testament to a great brand name and premium leadership, then I'm not sure what is. Luxury brands are struggling across the board with jeweler Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) lowering its guidance twice, high-end diamond retailer Harry Winston Diamond (NYSE: HWD) seeing sales fall 20% as it held back premium diamonds for sale rather than risk weaker margins, and accessories company Coach (NYSE:TPR) struggling with tepid U.S. growth and discounting. Even Macy's (NYSE:M), Nordstrom's most direct competitor, is expected to be tripled up in expected revenue growth (15% vs. 5%) by Nordstrom next year, according to Wall Street's estimates.
In Nordstrom's second-quarter report, the company noted an 11% decline in net income that was primarily attributable to its semiannual sale, and the subsequent margin-reducing sale prices that affect its bottom line. Have no fear, however, as comparable-store sales rose a healthy 4.5% and the company boosted its EPS forecast, as well as its comparable-store sale projections to a range of 6%-7% from a previous forecast of 4%-6%.
A few key initiatives have been instrumental in driving Nordstrom's growth. To begin with, Nordstrom is offering free shipping on all Internet orders now instead of forcing customers to purchase a minimum before the shipping is free. Not surprisingly, Internet orders rose 40% in the second quarter. It's also stayed up on the latest fashion trends and is one of the largest U.S. companies offering U.K. fashion labels Topshop and Topman in its stores. Finally, Nordstrom understands how cost-conscious consumers are and has been accelerating the build-out of its discount Nordstrom Rack locations.
A step above his peers
In addition to its shareholders, who've enjoyed Nordstrom's share price appreciating by more than 600% in the 12 years that Blake Nordstrom has been CEO, both its surrounding communities and employees have plenty to be thankful for.
Anyone who's worked in the retail sector is well aware that compensation and benefits are often lacking. That's not the case with Nordstrom. In 2011, the average worker made $19.18 per hour, well above the industry average of $12 per hour. Of course, most of these gains come around Christmastime, but that's still a hefty bonus over its peers.
Nordstrom's benefits package doesn't skimp, either, with a mix of health-coverage options offered, a 401(k), automatic disability and life insurance, and up to a six-week unpaid annual sabbatical. For those associates whose life doesn't always revolve around work, Nordstrom is a great place to work.
Another key is that Nordstrom hasn't forgotten about the communities it operates within. The company has a big focus on reducing its impact on the environment, including developing organic cotton and reducing waste within its stores and restaurants, as well as a focus on donating both time and money to nonprofit and charity organizations.
Two thumbs up
You'll often hear me say that I really like long-tenured management teams that have founders or family members at the helm, as their pay is usually well-aligned with the success of shareholders. That's exactly the case here with Blake Nordstrom, who owns $117 million worth of Nordstrom stock and options. If he wants a raise, a dividend boost or an increase in share price will most definitely suffice, helping both him and his shareholders.
Blake Nordstrom is making all the right moves with his company: driving new products into his stores, moving those products via the Internet, and catering to consumers segments in all income groups, while not forgetting about his employees or the communities who've helped him and his company get to where it is today. That's deserving of two thumbs up!
Do you have a CEO you'd like to nominate for this prestigious weekly honor? If so, then head on over to the new CEO of the Week board and chime in with your fellow Fools on who deserves some praise. If you don't have a nominee yet, don't worry: You can still weigh in on other members' selections.
Nordstrom isn't the only company that looks poised to dominate the retail sector over the long-term. In addition to the aforementioned Coach, our analysts at Stock Advisor have identified two other retailers that appear ready to rule the roost. Find out their identity, for free, by clicking here to get your copy of this latest special report.