In an industry filled with price promotions and shopping incentives, there’s nothing like Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale.
“Anniversary is an event of scarcity. We buy limited quantities of the products on the event. That creates excitement,” said Jamie Nordstrom, president of stores.
Nordstrom’s last Anniversary Sale ran from July 12 to Aug. 8, and each year after the event concludes, the retailer begins planning for the next one. It’s about a year in the planning, and no small feat to pull off. It’s staged across the entire Nordstrom 100-unit department store fleet, and on nordstrom.com.
The Anniversary Sale gives Nordstrom’s most loyal, highest-spending customers a first crack at shopping designer discounts on new fall styles, at 25 to 40 percent off. Other loyal but less spending cardholders get access soon after, and eventually all shoppers get access to the event. With Kate Spade shoes or some other brand, there might be 20 pairs on the floor on any given day during the year. However for the Anniversary Sale, designers and brands might have three items, creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity. Nordstrom locations designate areas for Anniversary Sale merchandise and it’s always signed well. The very next day after the event, the remaining Anniversary merchandise reverts to full price.
The Anniversary Sale is Nordstrom’s biggest volume event, or sometimes its second biggest depending on the outcome of the company’s holiday sale. The two events are usually close in volume, but always different in character, Anniversary being more of a loyalty event and unique in the retail industry.
During the 2021 Anniversary event, sales increased 1 percent compared with the event in 2019. “A compelling merchandise assortment, combined with new and differentiated services and experiences, contributed to strengthening customer engagement and improving financial results during our Anniversary Sale,” said Pete Nordstrom, president and chief brand officer of Nordstrom Inc. One hundred brands were added to the Anniversary assortment.
The Anniversary Sale dates back to the early ’60s with Nordstrom’s acquisition of Best Apparel, which had been running an “anniversary” sale since the mid-1940s. Nordstrom has adapted the formula over the years, such as extending the length of the sale and providing early access for cardholders.
“Most of our focus is how to make the Anniversary Sale even more fun, how to create more engagement,” said Jamie. “Our customers love it because it’s fun. We’ve got to make sure we don’t lose sight of that aspect. You’ve got to get their first to get the best selection. It’s like concert tickets — you’ve got to get them before they’re sold out.”