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We found an extensive selection of designer handbags at Nordstrom Rack.
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury
  • Nordstrom is increasingly leaning on its off-price concept, Nordstrom Rack , for growth.
  • These discount stores now exceed its full-price locations. Nordstrom operates 239 Rack stores in the US and 122 full-line stores.
  • TJ Maxx, meanwhile, has reported strong same-store sales numbers for several years, using a similar discount model.
  • We compared the shopping experience at Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx to find out which off-price store is better.

Off-price shopping is on-trend.

TJ Maxx is a shining example of what is working in today’s brick-and-mortar shopping environment. The US’ largest off-price chain has reported strong same-store sales number for several years while department stores look on enviously, reporting weaker sales and being forced to close stores.

Rather than lose out to the off-price channel, some department stores are working on creating their own version, like Macy’s, which is doubling down on its Backstage concept.

Nordstrom’s off-price offshoot, Nordstrom Rack, predates TJ Maxx, however. It was launched in 1973, three years before TJ Maxx, in the basement of one of its full-price stores in Seattle, and it sold clearance clothing from the main store. In recent years, it has become one of the biggest areas of growth for the company, and these stores now outnumber Nordstrom’s full-price locations.

In its most recent quarter, same-store sales at Nordstrom Rack cooled slightly, up by 0.4% versus a 3.7% increase the previous quarter. However, the trend for the past three years has been that these stores are outgrowing their full-price sister locations.

After putting Macy’s off-price concept to the test in June , we decided to see how Nordstrom Rack fared in comparison to TJ Maxx. Here’s what we found:

1/32

We headed to Nordstrom Rack in Manhattan’s Union Square on a sunny afternoon in July.

We headed to Nordstrom Rack in Manhattan's Union Square on a sunny afternoon in July.
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Much like TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack sells designer brands at a 30-70% discount.

2/32

The layout of the store felt a lot like a TJ Maxx …

The layout of the store felt a lot like a TJ Maxx ...
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

3/32

… as did the accessories section. Cheaper jewelry hung from racks, and more expensive pieces were locked in a cabinet.

... as did the accessories section. Cheaper jewelry hung from racks, and more expensive pieces were locked in a cabinet.
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

4/32

All beauty products were self-service.

All beauty products were self-service.
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

5/32

However, the brands were high-end.

However, the brands were high-end.
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

6/32

While the premise is the same as TJ Maxx, it felt like a more upscale version.

While the premise is the same as TJ Maxx, it felt like a more upscale version. Business Insider/Mary Hanbury
We found an extensive selection of designer handbags at Nordstrom Rack.

7/32

These Tumi suitcases were nearly $400.

These Tumi suitcases were nearly $400.
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

8/32

The store was mostly split out by individual brands, which made it easier to shop and less of a bargain hunt.

The store was mostly split out by individual brands, which made it easier to shop and less of a bargain hunt.
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

9/32

We spotted lots of exclusive labels such as Rag & Bone, Theory, and 7 For All Mankind, which are less likely to be found in a TJ Maxx store.

We spotted lots of exclusive labels such as Rag & Bone, Theory, and 7 For All Mankind, which are less likely to be found in a TJ Maxx store.
Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

10/32

However, there was definitely some cross-over between the brands that were stocked in both stores.

However, there was definitely some cross-over between the brands that were stocked in both stores. Business Insider/Mary Hanbury
Calvin Klein is also prevalent in TJ Maxx.

11/32

In the clearance section, different labels were jumbled in together.

In the clearance section, different labels were jumbled in together.