The Nordstrom Rack flagship in Herald Square

NEW YORK — Loaded with 25,000 pairs of shoes and dozens of top fashion brands at deep discounts, Nordstrom Rack opened in Manhattan’s Herald Square at 8 a.m. on Thursday and saw about 1,000 shoppers stream through its doors in the first 90 minutes.

The latest Rack, with three levels and 47,000 square feet, is considered a “flagship” due to its larger size, densely populated urban location and volume potential. Rack stores are typically between 35,000 and 40,000 square feet.

It’s also the off-price chain’s most innovative site to date, bringing several recently introduced technologies, features and services all together at a single site. There are three methods of checkout; “drop and shop” stations for fast returns of items bought at nordstromrack.com and HauteLook; “supersized” graphics and wider aisles for easier navigation of the store; gender-neutral fitting rooms with lit mirrors, and “grab and go” fixtures within the beauty department for travel-size items like body cream and shampoo.

New technology includes “scan and shop” so shoppers can scan price tags with their cell phones and see if an item is available online in different colors and styles. There’s also the “snap and shop” app so with one’s cell phone, you snap a photo of something in a window or worn by someone and up on the screen pop similar products sold at nordstromrack.com.

Among other offerings and services: petites and plus-sizes, a “clear the Rack” clearance section, alterations, tailoring, Wi-Fi and gift cards.

Throughout the store, Rack discounts at up to 70 percent off regular prices on women’s, men’s, accessories, footwear and beauty are available, though the grab and go beauty items are full-price.

The Nordstrom Rack flagship in Herald Square

The Nordstrom Rack flagship in Herald Square.  Courtesy Photo

The Herald Square flagship, situated at 865 Avenue of the Americas on 31st Street, sells kids and home goods as well, and is the first city location for Rack to do so.

Roaming through the store are employees in green shirts with handheld devices for mobile checkouts. There are also express checkout stations for shoppers buying five or less items, and the central checkout where shoppers queue.

“Everything we do is about reducing customer friction. Customers tell us they want speed and convenience and great fashion at great prices,” said Karen McKibbin, president of Nordstrom Rack, during a pre-opening tour of the store. “Customers love the treasure hunt, but once they find what they want, they want out.”

According to McKibbin, 48 of the 50 top brands sold at Nordstrom are sold at Nordstrom Rack and 11 percent to 12 percent of the merchandise at Rack are “transfers” from Nordstrom stores. The rest of the merchandise is bought in the marketplace or manufactured for Rack. It’s a flexible selling floor, where all the racks are on wheels, so categories can be given more space or reduced in space, depending on selling trends.

“We have a breadth of products at varying price points. There is something for everybody,” McKibbin said. And the assortment is inclusive, she added, noting, “We have 25,000 pairs of shoes with an important size story for women size four to 13 and for men sizes seven to 15.” That mirrors the extended size range found at the regular Nordstrom department stores.

Exposed ceilings and natural light streaming in lend a sense of airiness. It’s Rack’s second Manhattan store and 12th in the city. The first, a 32,500-square-foot unit, opened in Union Square in 2010.

With the Herald Square opening and a few others around the country on Thursday, the off-price chain operates 232 stores. Seventeen Rack openings were slated for 2017. Next year’s openings are still being determined, but according to McKibbin, Rack units can be rolled out relatively quickly. “We can open a store in six months from the time we find a site.”

Next year, Rack will debut in Canada with six locations.

In addition, the Rack business has two clearance stores, called Last Chance, in Chicago and Phoenix. Nordstrom Inc. also operates 122 full-line Nordstrom stores; two Jeffrey designer stores; nordstrom.com; nordstromrack.com; HauteLook, the flash sale site, and Trunk Club.

The offprice format continues to outperform traditional department stores. For the second quarter ended July 31, Nordstrom Rack, including Nordstrom Rack stores and Nordstromrack.com/HauteLook, posted a 9.8 percent net sales increase. Comparable sales increased 3.1 percent.

Among the deals spotted at Nordstrom Rack’s Herald Square flagship:
• A Citizens of Humanity stretch denim jeans priced $99.97 from $163.
• Theory cold shoulder blouse reduced to $99.97 from $285.
• Kate Spade leather baseball jacket reduced to $309.97 from $798.
• Vince stretch trouser reduced to $99.97 from $225.
• Gucci women’s sunglasses reduced to $119.97 from $325.
• Stuart Weitzman tall-shaft leather boot with neoprene reduced to $199.97 from $525.
• Ted Baker men’s sport shirt reduced to $89.97 from $165.
• Hudson brushed twill jean reduced to $79.97 from $165.

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