Well, this is getting interesting: A month after Saks Off 5th returned to downtown comes the announcement that it may soon be joined by its main competitor—Nordstrom Rack. Star Tribune has reported that the discount retailer is in talks to be opening in the former Gap street-level space (as well as the lower-level space formerly belonging to T.J. Maxx) at IDS Center on Nicollet Mall—just two blocks from the new Off 5th store. (Though According to additional reporting by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, IDS officials have merely “confirmed they were in discussions with the retailer.”)
Saks Off 5th hasn’t been shy about its intentions to restyle itself using Nordstrom Rack’s successful model. After Hudson’s Bay Co. purchased Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks Off 5th in 2013, Hudson’s Bay exec Richard Baker told The Wall Street Journal, “Our outlet stores look too much like department stores. Nordstrom Rack is a mess, and customers love it.” So the company configured them more like the less-than-tidy spaces of typical discounters.
Though there’s the perception that outlet stores are a great place to score a deal—and in the old days of Off 5th, they used to be—outlet stores such as Nordstrom Rack, Off 5th, T.J. Maxx, and Marshall’s operate as their own brands, and it’s been reported than as much as 90 percent of merchandise for outlet stores was made to be sold especially for an outlet. Adds the Star Tribune in their report, “A small percentage of The Rack’s merchandise comes from full-price Nordstrom stores. Most is separately ordered from some of the same brands that are found at the full-price stores.” This can lead to lower quality—and those “original retail prices” listed on the tag? They’re basically made up to give consumers the illusion of getting a good deal. If you really want a deal, shop the clearance section of a main-line store (in this case, Nordstrom at Ridgedale and the Mall of America), or shop at a genuine outlet store such as the locally owned Opitz Outlet and Opitz Annex, which recently opened a second location in Minneapolis.
Reportedly opening next spring, it will be the 4th Nordstrom Rack location in the Twin Cities, following locations at the Mall of America, the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove, and the Shoppes at Knollwood in St. Louis Park.