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Why Nordstrom's Bridal Move is Smart

Lately, it seems like every apparel chain is adding bridal in hopes of capturing some big-ticket sales -- J. Crew, Chico's (CHS) brand White House/Black Market and Urban Outfitters all recently jumped on the bridal bandwagon. But now, a chain that's perfectly positioned to rake in the wedding sales is opening 14 bridal salons -- Nordstrom (JWN).

While the upscale Seattle department-store chain hasn't officially been in bridal in its 109-year history, it's been in the neighborhood. The company has high-end, special-occasion gown boutiques featuring such designers as Monique Lhullier, Alberto Makali, Calvin Klein and Adrianna Papell. Many bridesmaids have been finding their dresses for the big day at Nordstrom for ages.

Adding bridal to that is just a natural segue. Now the bride and bridesmaids can all go to Nordstrom together to pick out their dresses. Here's betting they will.

Nordstrom has an opportunity to stake out this category and own it within the department-store channel. There's little competition at this point. JCPenney (JCP) closed its bridal salons a decade ago, Macy's (M) has only 10 salons, and Saks Fifth Avenue only has two salons left.

Bridal has proved a tough business to run as a stand-alone store. Gingiss and Gary's Tux Shops both went bust. David's Bridal was spun off by what is now Macy's, and it's now owned by private-equity turnaround specialist Leonard Green & Partners. For its part, After Hours Formalwear became part of Mens Wearhouse.

Nordstrom can leverage its existing real-estate, add higher-ticket gowns, and reap the benefits. Better yet, the retailer is choosing a wide price range for gowns and bridesmaid dresses, from $138 to $2,000. A bride can easily spend more, but the chance to grab some Nordstrom style for walking down the aisle at a more affordable price will probably lure many newly engaged women to walk down Nordstrom's aisles to find their dress.

Photo via Flickr user Hans van de Bruggen