Nordstrom is one of those retailers you hear about and assume it’s all high-dollar, out-of-my-budget products. But what’s the deal with Nordstrom Rack? And how does it stack up when you compare Nordstrom vs. Nordstrom Rack? Well if you’re wondering who wins in that matchup, the answer is you! Finding goodies at Nordstrom Rack is what we like to call shopping bougie on a budget.
If you know how to shop the Rack, you can get your hands on some pretty nice pieces — aka the real-deal stuff that comes straight from Nordstrom department stores. And thankfully, you have us Krazy shoppers to help you navigate the lay of the land and explain everything you need to know about the Rack, including the awesome Nordstrom Rack Black Friday sale and the best Nordstrom Black Friday deals.
Be sure to download The Krazy Coupon Lady app because that’s your lifeline for finding out when Nordstrom Rack’s Clear the Rack sales happen, and you’ll also get alerts about other drop-dead amazing deals we find on designer brands.
1. Nordstrom vs. Nordstrom Rack — which one is better?
Essentially, all the discount items from Nordstrom department stores end up at Nordstrom Rack. At the Rack, you’ll find discounts up to 70% off. There isn’t a Nordstrom Rack outlet, though — but frankly, you won’t need one with how good the deals are at the Rack.
While Nordstrom department stores offer restaurants, coffee bars, alterations, tailoring, and bra fittings, you won’t find those services and amenities at a Nordstrom Rack. You’re also not going to find specialty areas like the “Spa at Nordstrom” or the “Wedding Suite” bridal shop at a Nordstrom Rack, either. Another perk of Nordstrom vs. Nordstrom Rack is that Nordstrom offers curbside pickup, while Nordstrom Rack does not.
Another major selling perk at Nordstrom (if you’d use it) is their personal stylist services. You can meet with a stylist in store or online for free. They even have an in-home styling option that starts at $50.
All those luxury perks are great and all, but if you’re hunting for great Nordstrom deals, Nordstrom Rack is your place. Nordstrom Rack has a killer Nordstrom Rack Black Friday sale, as well as Clear the Rack sales that happen roughly once a month. Nordstrom has just two big sales a year — the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, which typically happens in mid- to late July and lasts through August, and the Nordstrom Black Friday sale. So if you’re just looking at who offers the most sales, then Nordstrom Rack wins.
Now that we dove into Nordstrom vs. Nordstrom Rack, let me show you the secrets of Nordstrom Rack.
2. Tags that say “Nordstrom Rack” were made just for them.
If a tag says “Nordstrom Rack,” that’s your first clue that this item has never been sold at a Nordstrom store. Instead, it’s a made-for-Rack item. Something from a full-line Nordstrom store will never have a paper “Rack” tag. You may want to skip these items if you’re hunting for true Nordstrom-quality pieces.
Only a small fraction of Nordstrom Rack’s merchandise actually comes from Nordstrom, while the rest is made or purchased specifically for the Rack. Since there are only 100 full-line Nordstrom stores and over 240 Rack stores, there just isn’t enough inventory to spread around without Rack having their own stuff!
3. If the tag says “Nordstrom,” it definitely came from a full-line Nordstrom store.
Generally, items at a full-line Nordstrom store get two markdowns before they’re shipped off to one of the 240 Rack stores. So if you see a Nordstrom tag on an item at the Rack, there’s a good chance it’s an out-of-season piece or last year’s merchandise.
4. Look for designer tags with a “Nordstrom Rack” sticker on top.
Sometimes you’ll find a clothing tag without “Nordstrom” or “Nordstrom Rack” printed on it. Instead, it might be a designer tag with a white “Nordstrom Rack” sticker on it with a red clearance sticker overlaid on top of that.
This happens when full-line Nordstrom merchandise arrives at the Rack without any markdowns on the tag. The Rack retags these with a small white Nordstrom Rack sticker.
5. Peel back the red clearance stickers to verify that something came from Nordstrom directly.
There’s no shame in peeling those clearance stickers back to see if “Nordstrom” has the word “Rack” written after it. Remember, you’re looking for original Nordstrom tags in order to sleuth out full-line merch.
6. The price on the Rack’s red sticker trumps any handwritten price. (Even when the handwritten price is lower!)
Now, this rule is silly, and I don’t like it. The lowest handwritten price on this tag is $99.98, but the red clearance tag reads $119.97.
When I asked which price I’d pay, I was told “$119.97.” What?! Apparently, the $99.98 price was a leftover handwritten price from one of two Nordstrom markdowns not a Rack markdown, and the Rack will not honor it.
I called the corporate office to get to the bottom of what appeared to be false advertising regarding the price and to see if they’d give me the lower markdown in cases like this. No dice.
The bottom line is that I could have gotten this cheaper if I’d seen it at Nordstrom before it came to the Rack. Rats. This would be where Nordstrom wins in the Nordstrom vs. Nordstrom Rack battle.
7. Save big with “Altered or Refinished” items.
If the tag says “Altered or Refinished,” it’s an altered or refurbished designer item from Nordstrom. In this case, it’ll often have a standard white Nordstrom Rack tag.
You can get great buys on these items if the piece is in good condition!
8. Get up to 75% off when you shop Nordstrom Rack sales like “Clear the Rack.”
Nordstrom Rack “Clear the Rack” sales events happen roughly once a month, usually lasting two to five days.
You’ll get an additional 20% – 25% off anything (taken off at the register) for a total possible savings of up to 75%. The sale happens both online and in store. Items go quickly, but new items are posted daily online.
Related: We’ll help you decode more patterns in the Nordstrom Rack sale schedule.
9. Look for “Designer” signs to find designer clearance without digging.
If you’re looking specifically for designer items, just hit up the clearance racks that say “Designer.” No digging required.
10. Red clearance racks in the back hold mostly Rack items, but you can find full-line clearance, too.
The signs that just say “Clearance” will be stocked with mostly made-for-Rack clothing, but you’ll still see items from full-line Nordstrom stores mixed in.
For example, I found a lot of Halogen brand items that came from a full-line Nordstrom, and they offered deep savings — like in the 70% – 80% off range.
11. Nordstrom Rack doesn’t price match or make price adjustments.
In the past, you could price match at Nordstrom Rack. But not anymore. According to Nordstrom Rack, “We do not price match or make adjustments, as our prices change often to ensure the best possible value, every day.” Bummer.
TIP: Nordstrom does let you price match, unlike Nordstrom Rack.
12. Get up to 2% cash back as a Nordy Club member — it’s free to join.
Nordy Club is Nordstrom’s free loyalty program that’s good at full-line stores and Nordstrom Rack. As a standard member, you’ll earn 1% back on every purchase.
When you spend $1,000 (or reach 1,000 points) at any Nordstrom store, you’ll get a $10 Nordstrom Note. (A “Nordstrom Note” is basically store cash that you can spend on your next purchase.)
You can get 2% cash back when you use a Nordstrom debit card — it’s connected to your checking account, similar to how the Target RedCard works. With the Nordstrom debit card, you’ll get a $20 Note when you spend $1,000. Here are more Nordy Club perks:
- Find out about Clear the Rack events before nonmembers do.
- Get free basic alterations.
- Enjoy three personal “double points” days once you reach their Influencer level (spend at least $500 per year).
Your points only expire if your account has been inactive for 12 months.
13. Use the Nordstrom Rack credit card and get 3% back on every purchase.
Just like you get with the free Nordy Club, you’ll receive a $20 Nordstrom Note when you reach 2,000 points with your Nordstrom credit card. But with the credit card, you can earn points up to three times faster depending on your status level, so you’d end up spending less to get it.
Cardholders have all the same benefits as regular Nordy Club members, but you’ll get an additional perk with the credit card — three personal “double points” days.
Plus, you’ll receive a bonus $40 Note when you apply for the card and use it the same day you’re approved.
14. Get out-of-stock items shipped to your local store for free — but only for orders over $89.
No luck finding your preferred size or color in store? Just ask an associate to search their inventory database to get it shipped to your local store for free. A recent change to this policy is that now you have to spend over $89 to get free store pickup at Nordstrom Rack.
TIP: Nordstrom Rack offers free store pickup as an option when you’re doing Nordstrom Rack online shopping and your order totals $89 or more. So if you don’t want to pay for shipping, this is a great way to go. In order to see if your local store offers free store pickup, look under “Shipping and Returns” for your specific item at NordstromRack.com.
15. Shop for off-season items to save an average of 30%.
When it’s sweltering outside, the last thing you’re thinking about is that nice fluffy pair of designer winter boots.
Out-of-season merchandise is tough to sell, so the discounts will often stack up. For example, I found a $1,298 J Brand leather jacket for just $289.97 when I shopped in August. And I found clearance-priced Sun Bum sunscreen when shopping in November.
16. Get designer fragrances and makeup on NordstromRack.com for up to 70% cheaper than department store prices.
If you’re looking for a deal on fragrance or makeup, plan to shop online instead of bothering with in-store merchandise. The selection in store is very underwhelming.
For example, Burberry Brit is available on NordstromRack.com for $59.97, with a “comparable value” price listed as $106. I double-checked the comp price, and it’s actually spot on. This same size perfume costs $106 at Macys.com.
You can shop for high-end makeup at NordstromRack.com, too. They have brands like Urban Decay, Stila, MAC, Lorac, and more.
17. Hair product brands like It’s a 10 and Big Sexy are cheaper than what you’ll find at Ulta.
Some of these products are actually cheaper than you’ll find anywhere else, and most are cheaper than what you’ll find at Ulta.
Big Sexy Hair Spray and Play, 10 ounces
- Ulta price: $19.95
- Nordstrom Rack price: $16.97
18. You have up to 45 days to return your purchases.
The Nordstrom Rack return policy is amazing. You can actually return items from Nordstrom, Nordstrom.com, and Nordstrom.ca to Nordstrom Rack.
Your item should be in like-new condition, but you don’t need a receipt if you’re a Nordy Club member — they can look up your information in the database.
A few things you need to know, though — beauty items are all final sale. Plus, your item won’t be available for immediate repurchase, so you can’t trick the system by returning an item that went on sale and then rebuying it at the lower price. But I respect you for thinking of that option!
19. Use the Nordstrom Rack app to save and shop before everyone else.
In the past, being a Rack app member gave you special coupons like $5 off $50. I got one coupon for in-store purchases and another for online purchases.