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Nordstrom family could rescue retail giant

NEW YORK — It sounds like Nordstrom has had enough of Wall Street’s retail gloom-and-doom.

Nordstrom stock skyrocketed 17% on Thursday after the struggling department store said it’s exploring a deal to go private.

Members of the Nordstrom family, including co-presidents Blake Nordstrom, Peter Nordstrom and Erik Nordstrom, are considering a bid to acquire 100% of the company. The group includes Bruce Nordstrom, grandson of the store’s founder, who owns 15% of the retailer’s outstanding stock.

A deal to go private could allow Nordstrom to reshape its business for the future of retail away from the scrutiny of Wall Street analysts and media.

Nordstrom stressed that no formal proposal has been made and there’s no guarantee a deal will be reached.

The go-private talk comes at a dark time for brick-and-mortar retailers. The rise of e-commerce and shifting consumer behavior has sent once-iconic retailers like Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s into disarray. Store closures and job cuts have also mounted.

The biggest threat has obviously come from the online juggernaut Amazon, which like Nordstrom is based in Seattle.

Earlier this week, Macy’s set off another retail panic when the department store warned its gross margins may be weaker than feared. The news sent Nordstrom shares sinking another 4%. And last week, Michael Kors announced plans to close 100 to 125 stores.

Nordstrom has not been immune to the retail fears. One-third of Nordstrom’s market value evaporated between early December and Wednesday’s closing price.

However, Nordstrom has fared better than some of its peers. The department store’s annual sales have increased each of the past nine years, though profits tumbled 41% last year.

If it does go private, Nordstrom would follow in the footsteps of J. Crew, which went private in a $3 billion deal with private-equity firms in 2011. However, J. Crew continues to face financial pressure and CEO Mickey Drexler will step down in July.