RACK RANK

Every Nordstrom Rack in the Seattle Area, Ranked

I visited eight Nordstrom Racks in one weekend. Here's what I found.

By Zoe Sayler

Image: Jane Sherman

Nordstrom Racks are not all created equal. Some locations produce bag upon wrinkly plastic bag of blessedly inexpensive designer clothing. Others produce nothing but sorrow and dehydration. How's a self-respecting shopper to know the difference?

Luckily, I am not a self-respecting shopper. Over the course of a holiday weekend, in the midst of a 25-percent-off clearance extravaganza, I visited every Nordstrom Rack in the Seattle area, from Lynnwood to Auburn and everywhere in between. I elbowed my way through eight busy shoe departments. I scowled at my reflection in eight different mirrors. I made several ill-advised charges to my Nordstrom card.

The results: My definitive list of Seattle-area Nordstrom Racks, ranked.

1. Factoria Mall, Bellevue

Best for: Accessible luxury brands and the people who love them 
Worst for: Misanthropes
In my bible, every high-end brand found at Nordstrom hopped on an ark, and after the rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights, that ark surfaced at Factoria Mall. Then (still in my bible) Oprah arrived and gifted each of those brands its very own rounder: Walter Baker, you get a rack. Cinq a Sept, you get a rack. Gucci, Derek Lam, Topshop, everyone gets a rack. Clearance sections skew dressy; pantsuits and Prada boots still cost $400 on a steep discount, but affordable deals abound, too. And the dressing room is complete with an angled, lighted mirror to check them all out in.

Which explains why, at around 5pm on a weekend, the place is swarming with customers searching for (and no doubt finding) incredible deals on luxury fashion. Emotions run high. Lines run long. You will either cry, get duped by the gauntlet of checkout goodies into purchasing fake nails and beef jerky, or both. This is what the Rack is all about.

TGIFactoria.

Image: Zoe Sayler

2. Downtown Seattle

Best for: Designer deals; vampires 
Worst for: Children; all that is holy
The downtown Seattle Nordstrom Rack is a crucible beneath the city streets from which shoppers emerge parched, shocked that the sun still shines or indeed exists at all, and several hundred dollars poorer. Unlike most Nordstrom Racks, which have a kids department stocked almost entirely with brands no Nordstrom Proper deigns to carry, this location foregoes the category entirely, as if to deter shoppers from exposing future generations to this depravity. Nay, as if to say, We are all bearing witness to the end of the human race as we know it, and the annihilation will begin right here, next to something sequined, hellacious, and Gucci.

Which brings me to the reason I love this place: the designer section. And it is a bona fide section, with a fashionably lowercase “designer” sign on the wall and racks upon racks dedicated exclusively to designer fashion. Ninety percent off Rodarte. Seventy-five percent off Valentino. A shrine to Marc Jacobs handbags. Hyper-focused women pawing robotically through designer clearance. Sunglasses—Fendi, Givenchy, Miu Miu—get the entire tiny top floor, presumably to remind shoppers to shield their eyes when emerging from hours in a basement. If the downtown Rack has opened the gates of hell, so be it. I've sold my soul to afford Rag and Bone.

3. The Village at Totem Lake, Kirkland

Best for: Steep shoe discounts; scavengers 
Worst for: A time crunch
Totem Lake Nordstrom Rack consistently delivers in the shoe department. Based on the dirty soles on one gorgeous pair of matte-white Jeffrey Campbell cowboy boots and at least one pair of designer shoes whose soles had actually been refurbished, I suspect that this is where mid- to high-end footwear that has fallen victim to Nordstrom’s generous return policy gets rehomed. It’s also where I found the nicest pair of shoes I own and where, just this weekend, I scored a pair of zebra-print Swedish Hasbeens, originally $330, for $70.

The rest of the store is a bit of a mess. Desirable brands like Samsøe Samsøe and Reformation are distributed so randomly throughout that the likeliest explanation involves a bunch of suspicious shoppers purposely hiding their finds before getting lost in the shoe department and completely forgetting about them. Speaking of suspicious shoppers: It pains me to think that, much like a fisher telling the world about her favorite spot, I may wind up depriving myself of an amazing catch. 

4. The Outlet Collection, Auburn

Best for: Marie Kondo 
Worst for: Cosmetics; also Marie Kondo
I love a Rack that is stuffed to the absolute gills. This is not the impression I got when I arrived in Auburn only to be greeted by the flimsiest cosmetics department in Rack history (on the trip when I'd decided to finally restock on Clinique moisturizer), tables of cheap jewelry apparently whipped into disarray by an extreme weather event, and a home section anchored by a $10 guacamole-cooling contraption (on the trip when I'd decided to buy my aunt a birthday gift). A disappointing development for a Rack rumored to be the best in the area.

But expectations are the enemy of the bargain shopper. That sparsity, I soon gathered, was simply a product of the overwhelming chaos that governs this location—chaos that translates to racks overstuffed with high-end finds made all the sweeter in contrast to the disaster that surrounds them. Reformation jeans. Intentionally Blank sandals. Ganni on Ganni on Ganni. Even the home section, upon closer inspection, managed to conjure up a Smeg kettle. If you love mess, this is the Rack for you.

Auburn's unassuming exterior belies the chaos within.

Image: Zoe Sayler

5. Golde Creek Plaza, Lynnwood

Best for: Juniors; low-to-midrange selection 
Worst for: Tell-your-friends finds
What is there to say about a perfectly nice, completely average Nordstrom Rack? It is clean and organized, and you can usually find sizes and brands where they say they'll be. It's mostly stocked with originally inexpensive, classic Rack brands like Melloday and Lush. On a good day, the high-end selection is small but impressive—Proenza Schouler, Tyler McGillivary, Herves Leger.

No one section stands out for being particularly wonderful, though the relatively well-stocked juniors department, the surprisingly organized cosmetics and accessories area, and the selection of inexpensive bags get honorable mention. This probably won't be the Rack where you make a memorable, brag-about-it kind of purchase. But you will tell your friends that you found something for everyone, and you had a just-fine time.

6. Northgate Mall, Seattle 

Best for: Luggage; menswear 
Worst for: Triggering mall nostalgia
Northgate Nordstrom Rack—if you can find it in the obstacle course that is the combination dead mall, Red Robin, light rail station, and Kraken Community Iceplex—is a land of contrasts. It earns points for its absurdly large luggage selection (seriously, this is THE place to go if you need a suitcase) and great deals in the men's department, especially on suiting and workwear. It loses them for organization and stock consistency (the deals are there, but certain sizes feel sparse, and you're going to have to check every rounder to find them).

Once you've sniffed them out, the brands here trend contemporary and fashion-forward; think Agolde, Staud, and Lita by Ciara. Though I personally prefer the thrill of the hunt, those occasional scores just weren't quite enough to rank it above more consistent Lynnwood.

Northgate's last stand.

Image: Zoe Sayler

7. Southcenter Square, Tukwila

Best for: Plus-size selection 
Worst for: Dressing room stress
First and foremost, it should be said: This is by far the best Nordstrom Rack in the Seattle area for plus-size clothing. Nordstrom's brick-and-mortar plus-size selection leaves a lot to be desired in general, and Racks are no exception—most locations dedicate at most two rounders to fashions above a size XL. Here, there is a well-stocked rack of plus-size jeans, several rounders of clothing, an entire section within the dress department, and heaps and heaps of clearance options. 

No Rack is completely devoid of finds, but the rest of the store is distinctly "meh," from the unusually hectic dressing room to the large but disappointingly fruitless aisles of clearance shoes.

8. Lincoln Square, Bellevue

Best for: Expectations 
Worst for: Reality
If Factoria's Nordstrom Rack is so good, just imagine a two-story, downtown Bellevue store. Maybe they serve Trophy cupcakes in the checkout line instead of slinging Hi-Chew. Maybe they exclusively sell luxury brands. Maybe there's a cafe!

Well...the Lincoln Square location certainly reeks of luxury. It smells clean and new, with an industrial look and an open floor plan. Impressively wide shoe aisles hold two people without inciting a primal urge to fight over territory. But there's not much to fight over. Sparse rounders devoid of thrilling finds satisfy neither the instinct to hunt nor to gather. The plus-size section is weirdly relegated to a far-off corner. Yeah, there's some designer stuff. And, unlike many much better locations, it's not a bad place to be. It's just a bad Nordstrom Rack.

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