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Nordstrom Rack’s “Previously Worn” Shoes Smells Bad

04/09/2012

Nordstrom the venerable Seattle-based retailer uses its Rack stores to move closeouts, discontinued product and returns. By using the Rack to move the less desirable product in a controlled setting, Nordstrom is able to keep their department stores free of the dreaded “sale” rack desert that plagues most retailers. Smart.

Nordstrom is a favorite destination for customers seeking quality product and service. The store’s shoe department is widely seen as one of its greatest assets. The semi-annual shoe sale is a big deal for customers and Nordstrom alike. This year Nordstrom moved the shoe sale up from March to February. The company said moving the shoe-clearance event up boosted February growth by 2 to 2.5 percentage points but reduced the March number by 1.5 to 2 percent.

Given its liberal returns policy it’s only natural that the company has a fair number shoes returned any given month.

So what does Nordstrom do with returned shoes? It refurbishes them, marks them as “worn and refurbished” and sells them at the Rack.

Consumers like the deals they can get on the refurbished shoes – usually around 70 percent. But what does the presence of the “refurbs” do to the Nordstrom brand? While it isn’t a huge problem there’s potential damage to the quality aspect of the Nordstrom brand.

We think Nordstrom would be better served by using a charitable destination for previously worn returns. Easier said then done, of course. Sending a pair of Tory Burch boots to Africa isn’t nearly as logical as a pair of Tom’s, but there might be a better way to move the returns out of Nordstrom’s system. Whatever the solution, it’s likely Nordstrom will take the high road. As they always do.

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