Old Is the New Chic at Nordstrom

February 12, 2020
Old Is the New Chic at Nordstrom

Used clothes are setting a new trend in fashion retail.

Nordstrom has just started selling used clothes, shoes, and accessories. In doing so, it is joining other retailers in offering a climate-friendly alternative to fast fashion. The resale market is growing fast, attracting shoppers from multiple age groups and indicating a shift in attitude toward disposable fashion.

Video Spotlight: Nordstrom Sells Secondhand Clothes

This post is based on The Washington Post article, Old Clothes, New Customers: Nordstrom Becomes Latest Big Retailer to Sell Secondhand Items, by A. Bhattarai, January 31, 2020, and the YouTube video, Nordstrom Hoping Used Clothing Business Will Attract New Customersby WCCO – CBS Minnesota, January 30, 2020. Image source: Adisa/Shutterstock.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are the societal factors responsible for the trend of selling used clothes along with new ones?

Guidance: The factors responsible for this trend include increased environmental consciousness; a need for higher-quality, longer-lasting clothes; a preference for designer clothes at lower prices; and a growing contempt for excessive consumption.

2. Is the practice of placing used clothing items alongside new ones a wise layout option for Nordstrom?

Guidance: Although personal opinions on this matter vary, it seems that mixing old and new clothes appeals to a growing number of customers. Therefore, placing secondhand items close to new ones is a logical layout option. Nordstrom is trying to increase customer loyalty by buying back items bought at its stores and paying with a gift card. Customers can then use their card to purchase new items at Nordstrom and repeat the cycle. It is unlikely that these customers would mind seeing secondhand clothes (in some cases, their own!) next to new items.

3. Will the new practice of selling used clothes in addition to new ones cause an inventory glut?

Guidance: The used clothing is on display only at the flagship store in Manhattan. It is unlikely that Nordstrom would “clutter” the store with too many used items that may have lower profit margins. Most of the used items will be sold online, and Nordstrom can match the purchasing and selling rates of secondhand clothing more easily than it can for new, seasonal fashion items. If inventory levels of used clothes increase, Nordstrom can simply suspend or slow down purchases of those items.

4. How does Nordstrom’s practice of selling both used and new clothes affect its supply chain?

Guidance: One might be tempted to assume that it will drastically reduce the purchases from its suppliers of new clothes and shoes. However, that may not be the case. Nordstrom, Macy’s, and J.C. Penney have made headlines for their store closures, signaling slowing activities in their supply chains. It is not a coincidence that all three retailers have recently adopted the practice of selling used clothing items to attract customers and counter their sales slump. The increased customer traffic could actually offset a slowdown in Nordstrom’s supply chain.


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