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Store Flies Top Shoppers In For Daylong Clothes Junket

October 30, 1988

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) _ The half-dozen high rollers who boarded the corporate jet and headed West for the glittering city with fast action weren’t gamblers. They were shoppers.

The junket didn’t go to Las Vegas but to Seattle for a shopping spree at Nordstrom, an upscale clothing chain with a reputation for customer service.

The flying shoppers breakfasted on fresh strawberries and orange juice and dabbed their wrists with samples of perfume as the small jet skimmed high over the Cascade Mountains.

Nordstrom may have outdone itself with the all-expenses-paid jet flight for some of its best Yakima customers.

″What it did for me was reinforce the idea that I am shopping in the right place,″ said Charlene Franklund, one of the customers who made the Oct. 12 trip.

″I suggested they go to San Francisco next time,″ she added. ″I can go to Seattle anytime.″

But rarely in such high-flying comfort - aboard a sleek 12-seater with a cabin attendant, plus taxi service from Boeing Field to downtown and a personal salesperson for the entire day.

The shopping adventure included lunch beside Elliott Bay and gourmet cookies for the flight home.

″They really did treat us very nicely,″ Ms. Franklund said with a sigh.

Seattle-based Nordstrom Inc. has made a splash in recent years with trendy stores and classy service that includes a hassle-free return policy. The company has 42 department stores, most of them on the West Coast, although it also operates in Utah, Virginia and is opening a store in New Jersey next spring.

Most recently, Nordstrom made news by opening a $67 million, 336,000- square-f oot store in San Francisco.

In the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, Nordstrom had sales of $1.92 billion and profits of $92.7 million.

While Yakima has a 44,000-square foot Nordstrom store of its own, the selection can’t compete with some of the huge Seattle stores.

Some customers suggested the trip, and Yakima manager Juliana Dennis arranged for the 140-mile flight to the big city.

″They are customers that do come in frequently and spend a lot of money with us,″ Ms. Dennis said.

She declined to say how much the shoppers spent but, despite the costs of the corporate jet, the elegant lunch and transportation in Seattle, ″it was worth the effort,″ she said.

″It benefited everyone,″ she said. ″Not only the customer but us as well.″

Originally a one-time trip, the company is now considering additional trips from Yakima because of customer demand, she said.

The National Retail Merchants Association, in New York City, noted that some major department stores have programs to reward frequent shoppers.

″Some stores do bus people around,″ said spokesman John Gary, who added that Dallas-based Neiman Marcus is the only other department store they had heard of that flies customers to stores.

″It’s done ad hoc from time to time,″ confirmed Jan Roberts, a spokeswoman for Neiman Marcus.

It is fairly common for Nordstrom stores to organize bus trips for people from outlying areas.

She said there were no spending minimums for those who went on the Seattle trip, and no invitations were issued. Customers only had to ask to be included, she said.

The customers were accompanied by salespeople from the Yakima store, and the rack-full of clothing they selected was brought back on the plane to be rung up in Yakima, Ms. Dennis said.

While royalty and movie stars may be used to jetliner shopping sprees, the average department store customer is not. Because of that, the company had hoped to keep the Yakima trips a secret, said corporate spokeswoman Kellie Tormey.

″We can’t make it (trips) available to everyone,″ she said in a telephone interview from Seattle. ″This was a specific situation where the request came from the customers to do this thing.

″We’re not going to be able to do it in every region,″ Ms. Tormey said, in declining to provide additional information.

For Ms. Franklund, the flight was just a more convenient way to make a shopping trip she frequently makes anyway.

″I didn’t spend any money I wouldn’t have otherwise spent,″ she said.

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