He is the grandson of John W. Nordstrom, founder of Nordstrom, Inc., which began as a shoe store in 1901. At the age of 9, Bruce Nordstrom began his career at the retailer working the stockroom and sales floor of Nordstrom’s downtown Seattle store, making 25 cents an hour. Bruce continued working under his Father, Everett Nordstrom and uncles, Elmer and Lloyd Nordstrom, until he pursued college.
In 1963, Nordstrom was named a President of Nordstrom, Inc. He became board co-chair in 1968 alongside cousins James and John, cousin in-law Jack McMillan, and family friend, Bob Bender. They made up the third generation of Nordstroms, who led company expansion and profitability until the 1990s, when they began to retire.
As an alumnus of the University of Washington, Nordstrom has stayed active in athletics and community affairs. He is the former chairman of the Tyee Board of Advisors and was a recipient of the Frank Orrico Award for "uncommon dedication" to the Department of Athletics in 1994.
In 1995, Nordstrom retired as co-chairman. The company leadership was restructured with Nordstrom’s sons – Blake, Pete and Erik in leadership roles alongside a new CEO, John Whitacre. From 1995 until 2000, Nordstrom sales decreased and the company executed a marketing campaign to modernize the brand that was not well received. As a result, Whitacre left the company in 2000. Nordstrom returned as chairman for the second time, joined by his three sons in a new generation of leadership. The stores began to slowly turn around as the Nordstroms moved the focus back to employees. Profitability followed; in 2003, the company reached record revenues of $6.5 billion.
Nordstrom retired a second time in 2006, with Enrique "Rick" Hernandez Jr., a Nordstrom board member since 1997, taking on the role of chairman. His sons remain board members and company Leaders.
In 2007, Nordstrom co-authored Leave It Better Than You Found It, a book documenting the history of Nordstrom Inc. and its philosophy.
He married his wife, Jeannie and has three sons – Blake, Erik and Peter – all of whom are in leadership positions at Nordstrom.
As of October 2015, he had a net worth of US$1.54 billion.