Nordstrom Unveils New Robotic Fulfillment Pilot Project

The retailer is betting big on autonomous robots that can improve shipping times by up to two days.

Need to Know

  • Nordstrom is working with two companies to modernize its California warehouse, utilizing robots to better manage time delivery logistics.
  • The partnership can boost delivery times by up to two days in some circumstances.
  • Live in one distribution center so far, the robots only handle beauty products as Nordstrom amps up efforts to compete with Amazon and Glossier.
  • Nordstrom’s online sales are up 16% in fiscal 2018 and comprise 30% of the total $15.48 billion in net sales last year.


Nordstrom’s new robotics partnership is a big step forward in the retail industry. Supply chain company Attabotics and parcel-sorting provider Tompkins Robotics are the two companies coming together to transform Nordstrom’s Newark, California warehouse.

Attabotics’ structures house aisles worth of products in a compact space, and the company helps Nordstrom adapt to changes in customer demand.

Tompkins Robotics utilizes small autonomous robots to sort products by orders, shipping destination, and shipping timing. Together the two help the warehouse staff send the right product to the right customer as quickly as possible—even up to one or two days faster. 

“Every location should be able to provide customers with what they want and on their terms. To help accomplish this, retailers must abandon the ‘one-size fits all’ approach to supply chain,” Nordstorm wrote in a blog post.  “We’re reimagining our supply chain to better enable this shopping experience, while also making the entire process seamless and operationally simple for our employees.”

In addition to employing robots, in 2017 the retailer also opened ‘Nordstrom Local’ retail hubs in some of its biggest geographical markets.  Nordstrom Local carries no inventory, but rather serves as a pick-up point for online customers looking for more flexibility in their delivery options. But instead of a drab post office, Nordstrom Local’s are packed full of luxury service offerings. Customers are able to have manicures, pedicures, stroller cleanings, and even clothing alterations while they pick up their orders. 

Nordstrom rolled out the robotic pilot in one of their biggest categories, beauty —perhaps feeling the pressure from online beauty giant Glossier and the ever-growing Amazon. Should the pilot be successful the retailer could expand its use to Nordstrom’s eight other US distribution centers.