The Revisit: Has Nordstrom Rack Gotten Any Better?

We sorted through the racks to see if there's anything worth buying.


Nordstrom Rack on opening day. | Tim Haas.

The first time I went to Nordstrom Rack, it was over-stuffed, over-crowded and a complete mess. The second time was a tad better, but war stories from other shoppers (including a woman I shared an elevator with who, out of the blue, proclaimed her disappointment in the store: “It’s just crap”) kept me away. But third time’s a charm, right? So I gamely wove myself back into the off-price fray to see whether things have started looking up for the store.

In a word: Nope.

There were a few bright spots, though. Let’s dig in. 

I went at 1pm on a Tuesday afternoon, hoping to miss the lunch rush and get an idea of how they’d recovered from it. A few clusters of shoppers were wandering around — mostly in the woman’s section on the second floor — but things seemed quiet and reasonably organized.

The accessories selection on the first floor is lacking. The jewelry here is too bright, too shiny, too cheap-looking. Skip this. You’re better off finding a few costume pieces at H&M.

The men’s section is decently sized, but nothing special. A few businessmen were rifling through the dress shirts looking unimpressed. (Though a friend’s fiancé notes that he likes their ties and pocket squares, so there’s that.)

Upstairs (why no escalator, guys?), the loungewear section had a few standouts: some buttery soft Natori robes and a Splendid romper that I’d wear around the house each morning, if I lived my magazine-cover life. I almost tried this on but didn’t, and I regret it. The Great Cami Rack of Dreams is still there, still a rainbow wheel of colors, still all $9.97.

But here on the second floor it all starts to unravel. There is a sprinkling of racks bearing some Rag & Bone, Helmut Lang, Theory and Vince (nothing to write home about)— plus an odd rack of 12 of the exact same Burberry Brit jackets and nothing else — but there’s also a plethora of garishly floral polyester shirts. Stay away from these.


A cute Splendid loungewear romper; my new workout outfit; a Burberry rack stocked with … one jacket style.

And don’t bother tackling the women’s clearance racks unless you have a lot of time and even more patience. The racks are packed, organized by size, and filled with the singularly annoying sorts of clothes that slide off their hangers the second you so much as breathe on them. I spent as much time looking at clothes as I did putting them back on their hangers. Still, because I am nothing if not a devoted bargain-hunter, I hunted. For about 40 minutes. And I found exactly six items I maybe would possibly consider buying if I was desperate to spend some money:

  • A wine-colored Marc by Marc Jacobs tank ($96.91 from $298, but, if I’m being completely honest, not worth either price).
  • A Classiques Entier wool cape ($159.97).
  • A cute Missoni dress ($279.97).
  • A frothy Marchesa frock ($399.97). Lately I have a thing for short lacey dresses. Don’t ask me why.
  • A pair of merlot leather Helmut Lang cropped skinnies ($276.97, from $1,095; this price is worth it).
  • Super-lightweight striped ankle-length jeans by Jolt ($28.97, from $46). These are so cute. Get them.

My six picks: Jolt jeans, a chic cape, a fancy tee, some Marchesa frippery, marsala leather skinnies, and a Missoni dress.

“You need a lot of patience,” one shopper said to her friend while picking through the clearance racks. They ended up leaving after ten minutes: “Let’s go to H&M and Macy’s.” I don’t blame them. Because though you’ll find a few Eileen Fisher knits (the go-to brand for Talbots deserters), and jeans by J Brand, Citizens and Adriano Goldschmied, you’ll also find tons of rayon and weird, saggy knits. It’s all rather sad. And if you’re plus-size, good luck: You’ll find a measly five racks, stuffed over by the coats.

Things look up in the activewear section, though, which has been worth poking through since opening day. It’s not large, but you can find Under Armour leggings and Nike gear, and an entire rack of great-looking workout pants and tops. I walked away with a new running outfit for less than $55.

Upstairs, the shoe section is more organized than it was during previous visits, but it’s not brimming with must-buy options for men (so many Florsheims) or women. My picks: a trio of gleaming silver shoes. Same goes for the kid’s section, though I did find one cute gingham outfit for a friend’s baby. The dressing rooms are clean (a no-shoplifting sign points to prosecution and also to “bad karma,” which I found sort of charming), and the sales associates working the registers are super-friendly and helpful.


Heavy metals in the shoe department (from left): Tory Burch flats, Kate Spade block heels ($159.95, from $328), Vince D’orsay flats, $179.97, from $295).

Still, none of this matters if there’s nothing worth buying, and in this case, well, you’re better off heading elsewhere.