Deconstructing (and Thrifting) the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

There’s nothing I can say about the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale that hasn’t been said already–it’s Black Friday for blog affiliate link commissions. A lot of people are really over seeing anything about it. And yet….I am totally fascinated by it. No, this is not a round up where I will tell you to get the Nordstrom credit card so you can shop early access. I will not dare to tell you that this is a sale “unlike any other.” Today I’m going to look at the psychology behind the N-Sale. In other words: how the heck did this sale become such a huge deal? And then, because, well, I do like to shop, I have included some links to things that are part of the sale every year that you can actually buy for way cheaper on Poshmark–because the sale isn’t actually as urgent as it’s made out to be.


I will be the first to admit that when I saw a N-Sale post go up on my Instagram feed last week I groaned. It felt like the breaking of a dam of all too familiar posts imploring me to shop! for Fall clothes! today! How is Nordstrom pulling off such trickery that they make me lust after suede jackets in July? Let’s take a look…

  • Nordstrom has, by far, done the best job turning the department store model into a millenial-friendly shopping destination. Millenials don’t like other department stores! They remind me of going with my mom to pick out Christmas Eve dresses made of red tulle and sparkles as a child! They’re dimly lit and much too big compared to our beloved specialty stores. And yet…Nordstrom has revamped their image to work for millenials. How?
  • First, they have done a ton with influencers. Here is just a small sampling of who they partnered with for the anniversary sale several years ago. Everyone from celebrities to models to fashion influencers is in on the act. Nordstrom has swapped glossy catalog images (ok, still available) for mirror and dressing room selfies.
  • The scarcity principle: Do. not. hesitate. because. this. item. will. SELL. OUT! This is basic psychology of all sales, but Nordstrom appears to push it hard, because every N-Sale post is complete with promises that you must add items to your cart ASAP. The truth? So many items from this sale come back in stock over and over again thanks to Nordstrom’s great return policy.
  • The “unique” aspect of the sale: Another party line on this sale is that this is the *only* sale where *new* (Fall and Winter) items are on sale at the beginning of the season. The reality? JCPenney and Macy’s run sales on everything (including new items) all the time. So how does Nordstrom get away with this?
  • Curated items: The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale catalog is soooo pretty guys. I am not saying this sarcastically. While Macy’s is blasting an ad every weekend for 20% off doorbusters, Nordstrom is *showing* you Fall items now and pointing out that they’re on sale. And, instead of an across-the-board discount, they list very specific prices for the sale. Somehow this combination makes this sale feel uniquely curated.

Let me just say that if you love the N-Sale I do not begrudge you. I am just fascinated by how a bunch of bloggers manufacture these wants for boots and scarves in me that I didn’t have last week when I was grilling on 4th of July.

That being said, I decided to run an experiment in “un-influencing” myself this year to keep myself off the Nordstrom website. This actually started when I spied this purse that will be part of the sale and thought “waaaaant.” Then I started reading reviews and realized they were all reviews from when the purse was on sale last year for the anniversary sale. “Hey!” I thought. “This stuff is probably all on Poshmark now.” And away I went…

Here’s a small case study: This pair of boots was on sale last year for $80. They’re cute, right? Here are three pairs of the boots, now for under $50, all on Poshmark (sizes 7, 8.5, 11).

Part of what makes it easy to find very similar pieces at thrifted prices on Poshmark is that so much of the stuff that is on the N-Sale goes on sale for it every year. So you can actually buy many very similar items that are either unused or gently used for way cheaper secondhand. Here are a few more examples:

Barefoot Dreams Cardigan: Is this cardigan as nice as every blogger promises? I’ll never know! But here it is for around $50 on Poshmark (size M).

Nike shoes: Simple white tennis shoes. $52 during the sale. Under $40 on Poshmark (Sizes 7 and 10).

Another simple thing I searched for was “Nordstrom Anniversary Sale” on Poshmark. This revealed several cute items, including Paige jeans (size 28, $45), this BP plaid shirt (size M, $19), and this cami that was all over the internet last year (size S, $10).

This was mostly a good exercise for me to remember to slow down and minimize “sale urgency” caused by buzz online. But, as it turns out, it was also really fun to shop this year’s Nordstrom sale pieces for way cheaper on Poshmark. Who knows? Maybe this is how I’ll use the sale every year from now on!

This post does not contain affiliate links or sponsorships.

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