The Week in Business: Blake Nordstrom Dies; Puget Sound Office Market Remains Strong

A roundup of the week's business news.

Like everyone else, I was stunned to hear of Nordstrom Co-President Blake Nordstrom's death this week at age 58 from complications of lymphoma. I did an hour-long interview with him on stage in 2002 during a business event. He was candid and friendly and took responsibility for some missteps the company had endured as it tried to appeal to a younger audience. He said the company had strayed from its roots, and he pledged to right the ship. I ran into him at the downtown Nordstrom flagship store a few months later, and he thanked me for the interview and for shopping at the store. Nordstrom, who ran the iconic retailer with his brothers Erik and Pete, presided over a period of rapid growth for the company in an increasingly challenging retail environment. The company recently launched merchandise-free concept stores in Los Angeles and has focused on growing its Nordstrom Rack outlet business to appeal to discount-minded shoppers. Nordstrom operates 116 full-line stores and 244 Nordstrom Rack locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Amazon plans more Whole Foods stores, expands delivery options
Fresh off what it said was a record-breaking holiday sales season, Seattle-based Amazon Inc. – the world's largest online retailer -- is reportedly planning to open Whole Foods stores in the Rocky Mountain region as well as expanding delivery from Whole Foods stores across the country. The strategy is straightforward: Amazon wants to take advantage of the growing popularity of online grocery spending with its two-hour delivery service. Online grocery spending is up 22 percent over last year, according to strategic advisory firm Brick Meets Click. The online share of total grocery spending is now 5.5 percent. Amazon operates 475 Whole Foods stores across the U.S.

Starting a business? Think Seattle.
Seattle ranks No. 12 in a new study that measures the best places in America for starting a business, according to Surge Cities and Startup Genome. The study examined seven factors, including rate of entrepreneurship, population and wage growth and job creation. Seattle's Northwest rival, Portland, ranked No. 10. The top three cities were Austin, Texas; Salt Lake City; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Tech insulates office market
Technology companies and the trend toward co-working spaces should help stave off any downturn in the Puget Sound region's commercial real estate market, according to a new report from commercial brokerage Colliers International. Seattle's office vacancy rate dropped to 7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, due in part to co-working company WeWork's occupancy of more than 200,000 square feet of space in two downtown buildings. The Eastside vacancy rate closed out the year at 4.9 percent, thanks partially to Google taking large swaths of space, the report said.

All about the S
The city of Seattle this week gave the green light for the ambitious S campus development just east of Century Link Field. The five-building, 1.2 million-square-foot campus is being developed by Urban Visions, a privately-owned Seattle-based commercial development firm founded by real estate veteran Greg Smith. The seven-acre campus design will include rooftop decks on every building and outdoor terrace spaces on every floor. The campus is named "S" because the buildings will be situated in an S shape. Construction will start in the first quarter of 2020.

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