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Originally published May 18, 2010 at 7:12 PM | Page modified May 19, 2010 at 3:04 PM

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Nordstrom rewards shareholders with higher dividend

Nordstrom saluted two of its top-selling vendors with its "Partners in Excellence" award. The recipients were Not Your Daughter's Jeans, which sells premium denim for curvy women, as well as trendy shoe brand Steve Madden.

Seattle Times business reporter

A year ago, Nordstrom executives told shareholders that when the recession ended, the Seattle-based retailer would be able to gain an edge on competitors with a firm commitment to customer service, both online and in stores.

Tuesday, executives said that although customers remain cautious, the company's strategy is paying off.

"Last year at this time, I've got to tell you, it was pretty tough for me to address you," President Blake Nordstrom recalled.

The company had just posted a 13.2 percent decline in sales at stores open at least a year for the first quarter of 2009. Earlier this month, it reported a 12 percent gain for the first quarter of 2010.

"Things are looking up," Nordstrom said at the company's annual shareholder meeting in downtown Seattle.

The retailer appears to be emerging from the recession a bit better than its competitors, which saw a first-quarter, same-store sales decline of 14.4 percent in 2009, then a 5.2 percent increase this year, according to a slide-show presentation.

"We hope to be with you a year from now sharing some pretty terrific numbers," Blake Nordstrom told about 300 people at the company's downtown store.

Recapping 2009, he said the company carefully managed its inventories, found "fresh, new product on a regular basis" to excite customers and made important changes to its website.

Last fall, it expanded its online fulfillment capability beyond a warehouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to all of its stores. That means Internet orders can be filled with merchandise from one of the stores if an item no longer is available at the warehouse.

"We're saying 'yes' to our customers on the website more often than we were before," Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Direct, said in a video shown at the hourlong meeting.

As usual, the company saluted two of its top-selling vendors with its "Partners in Excellence" award. The recipients were Not Your Daughter's Jeans, which sells premium denim for curvy women, as well as trendy shoe brand Steve Madden.

Also, the company raised its quarterly dividend 25 percent to 20 cents a share. It had been at 16 cents a share since early 2008.

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A bigger dividend pleases Morris Lindstrom, a retired business owner from Bellevue who owns 13,900 shares of Nordstrom stock.

"Anytime I can get more dividend money, I enjoy it," he said. "I live on my dividends."

Nordstrom's stock closed Tuesday down $1.19, or 3 percent, to $38.06. It has traded between $18.15 and $46.22 in the past 52 weeks.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

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