On Sales, Marketing Messages, FOMO, and Shopping

The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (NAS) just ended this past Sunday.   This is not only Nordstrom’s biggest sale of the year, it’s also my favorite sale and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its arrival every summer for as long as I can remember.   Longtime readers of this blog may remember that I opted to sit out the sale back in 2013 and that I spent too much time, attention, and money on it last year.   This year, I set the intention of finding a happy medium between avoiding the sale altogether and overdoing it.

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Did you shop the NAS this year? (images: Nordstrom.com)

I ended up shopping the sale in person twice this year and also ordered some things online.   I will debrief how I fared toward the end of today’s post, but there are other topics I would like to cover first that are far more relevant to all of us.  Specifically, I would like to address how sales like NAS are marketed to customers and how the messages that consumers receive affect our buying habits.  I will share my reactions to the messages I saw in the pre-NAS marketing materials this year, as well as to the signage within my local Nordstrom.  I would also love to get your input on how retail sales are marketed and how you respond to the barrage of messages pressuring you to buy.

FOMO – Shop This Sale or Miss Out!

About two weeks before the NAS begins, catalogs are mailed out to both cardholders and the general public.  This is of course to build interest and to encourage people to open Nordstrom charge accounts in order to be allowed to shop the sale a week earlier.  There is a not so subtle message that some of the best items on offer will be snapped up by cardholders, so if you don’t want to miss out, you’ll hurry up and join that exclusive club.   In case that FOMO isn’t enough, this page appeared within the catalog:

Nordstrom Anniversary Sales Event

Is NAS a sale – or is it a major not to be missed event?

The message is strong – NAS is not just your ordinary, garden variety sale. It’s a major event that not only must be attended, but which requires pre-planning so that the experience can be maximized. This event includes a “beauty bash,” a custom hashtag to facilitate bragging to your “friends” about the deals you get, and “scan + shop” capabilities so you can buy anything in the catalog with a click of your iPhone or iPad, as well as the standard Nordstrom perks of free shipping and returns and on-site alterations.  The sub-text of all of this is that if you’re “cool,” you are going to shop this sale.

Nordstrom has changed its tactics a bit each year.  A few years back, shoppers couldn’t even look at the merchandise during the pre-sale period unless they were cardholders, and even the cardholders were encouraged to make an appointment to view the pieces on sale with a retail associate.   This year, they loosened the reins quite a bit. While the sales areas were still cordoned off with sheer grey curtains, no one stood guard outside those areas and anyone could go in.   In addition, anyone could view the NAS offerings in Nordstrom’s e-commerce store as well.   They just couldn’t buy anything unless they opened up a Nordstrom charge account.   I personally think this approach is smarter, as FOMO is much more effective when one can actually see what they might be missing out on.

My 2015 NAS Experience

As some of you may remember, I closed out my Nordstrom debit card account after NAS last year.  The accounting process was painful and I was angry at the number of hours it took for me to reconcile all of my 2014 NAS purchases and returns.   I didn’t plan to open another account this year, but I have to admit that “NAS fever” got to me like it does most years.  In addition, my “shopping friend” asked if I wanted to shop with her on the first day of the pre-sale and I said yes.  I knew I would likely find something I would want and would have to open a new Nordstrom charge account in order to snap up any coveted items. I was okay with that, as I no longer have any other store credit cards and Nordstrom is my favorite store.  However, I vowed to open the standard charge card this year because the accounting is just far more streamlined.

So I went to the first day of NAS pre-shopping with my friend on July 9th.  However, we learned that it wasn’t really the first day.  There was yet another level of exclusivity of which we had previously been unaware.  The “high-roller” Nordstrom shoppers, those who spend over $10,000 per year (at just this one retail establishment, mind you…), are allowed to shop the NAS merchandise one day earlier.   I wonder how many people actually fall into that group.  The mind boggles…

On the (sort of) first day of the sale, the store was very crowded, especially for midday on a Thursday.   I’ve shopped the sale on the first day before, multiple times, but I was in a different frame of mind this year and noticed things I may not have seen before.   One thing I noticed were the signs that were posted all throughout the store.  I will share a few of them below, along with some of my thoughts on the messages being conveyed to shoppers.

Too Many Shoes?

Too many shoes?

Can a woman ever have too many shoes?

This message is probably meant to be cute and somewhat tongue in cheek, but it encourages the “more is more” philosophy that is rampant in our society as of late.   It’s also not really true.  Back when I started this blog, I knew I had too many shoes at 56 pairs.   I now have less than half that number, but it still feels like too much sometimes, mostly because I don’t wear some of them at all and others only get worn a few times per year.  Sometimes I see photos of celebrities’ closets and notice hundreds of pairs of shoes lined up on pristine shoe racks.  I wonder how often any of those shoes get worn.   There is such a thing as too many shoes…

Mood Adjustment through Shopping

Retail therapy

Does “retail therapy” really help anyone feel better long-term?

The concept of “retail therapy” is another thing that marketers capitalize on. I once wrote about how retail therapy is a ruse and I stand by that contention, but that doesn’t stop millions of shoppers from trying to improve their moods through buying new things.   I am certainly not immune to this behavior, but now I know better. I realize that no matter how many new items of clothing or accessories I purchase, the problems I walked into the store with are still going to exist when I leave with all of my new treasures in hand.

We may feel better temporarily after we snap up some “bargains” at NAS or another sale, but how will we feel the next day or week?   I would venture to state that many of us end up feeling worse instead of better because our guilt around overshopping only serves to compound our previous discontent. “Retail therapy” is a trap and it doesn’t solve anything.   If we fulfill actual wardrobe needs, we may experience lasting satisfaction with what we bought, but for other life problems, shopping won’t cut it – never has, never will.  I learned that the hard way and am still learning it…

Find Yourself at Nordstrom

Find yourself at Nordstrom?

Can you really find yourself in a retail establishment?

Can you find yourself at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale? That’s what this message seems to suggest, that if you buy enough new fall merchandise, you’ll have a better sense of who you are.  Now I don’t doubt the importance of discovering and cultivating our personal style, but there is a lot more to who we are than what we look like and what we wear. For years, however, I didn’t realize this and placed my appearance on a pedestal.   I really believed that if I looked good enough, my life would be better and I would feel happier with who I was. I think a lot of people have similar mistaken notions and marketers capitalize on our insecurity.   We may find fabulous clothes, shoes, and accessories at NAS, but we’re not going to find ourselves or the meaning of life there.   Such important discoveries cannot be made in any mall, retail establishment, or online store.

On Regrets…

Shopping regrets

How many shoppers only regret what they didn’t buy?

We all know this message isn’t true.   I’m sure everyone reading this has regretted at least a few purchases that she’s made.   In my case, those regrets number in the hundreds or thousands.  I can unequivocally state that I have regretted far more of the things I have bought than those items I’ve left behind.   This message really draws upon the concept of FOMO and encourages shoppers to snap up everything they fancy, lest they later wish they had bought something that is no longer available.  I have definitely fallen prey to this notion when shopping NAS in the past, and I even struggled with it to some extent this year.  Old habits die hard, especially when one is dealing with stress and up against expert marketers who are trying to separate us from our hard-earned dollars.   But when I have my wits about me, I know full well that I experience many more regrets about what I did buy than about what I didn’t buy.

So How Did My NAS Shopping Go?

As I mentioned previously, I shopped NAS on the first day of pre-selections (except for those high-rollers…) and a second time about a week later.   I also placed three small online orders of one to two items each.  The online orders were for items I wasn’t able to try on in the store because my local Nordstrom didn’t have them or were online-only offerings.  In the past, I pre-shopped the sale online, but I ended up returning most of what I ordered.   If you’re difficult to fit or highly selective (I am both…), it’s usually better to just go to the store. That way, you can try things on and have a better chance of your purchases working out.

On my first day of shopping the sale, I made sure to get two of my favorite bras, which I was happy to purchase for a third off the regular price.   I also bought two pairs of shoes, both of which I later returned.  In one case, the salesman had given me the wrong color sandals, and in the other case, I simply decided that the shoes weren’t right for me.  In terms of clothing, I purchased several pieces that were later returned, as well as about the same number of items that I opted to keep.   The items I kept will be highlighted in my July accountability update, which will go live within the next week or so.   The returns were made after trying my purchases on again at home (which I always recommend doing – store mirrors can be deceptive) and deciding they either didn’t look as good as I thought or didn’t work well with the rest of my wardrobe.

When I went back to the store to make my returns, I did a quick second perusal of the NAS offerings.  I bought one item at that time and ordered another (they didn’t have my size in stock).   Over the next few days, I also made the online orders that I referenced above.   About half of what I ordered worked out and the rest went back to the store.   I haven’t finalized all of my decisions as of yet and may opt to return one or two additional purchases.

I know it sounds like I did a lot of shopping at the NAS, but the truth is that I spent far less time and attention on the process this year than last year (and probably less money, too).  I mostly focused on defined wardrobe needs (bras, pants, t-shirts) or pieces that wowed me or were very different from what I already owned. I tried on very few items that didn’t fit into one of those categories.   Yes, I ended up making some returns, but that is not uncommon for items bought when shopping with a friend (like I did for the NAS pre-selection) or online.

I don’t feel that I overdid it with NAS this year, even in the face of all of the marketing messages I outlined earlier in this post.   Could I have done better?  Of course, and I intend to plan more carefully and streamline the process next year.  But overall, I feel pretty good about how my NAS shopping went this year.   One thing I plan to do differently next year is to allocate a larger percentage of my shopping budget to July and the third quarter.   I haven’t finalized all of my accounting yet, but it’s likely that I have come close to exceeding my quarterly budget after my NAS shopping.   I want to avoid that next year and will do so through better planning.

Conclusion

So that about does it for my 2015 NAS wrap-up.  I covered the way the sale is presented to customers leading up to it and in the stores, and I gave my perspective on the various marketing messages that are conveyed to consumers. I also shared my personal experience of shopping what has long been my favorite sale of the year.  I will share my actual purchases when I do my July accountability update and I will let you know why I decided to buy those particular items.  Hopefully, I have made wise choices that will serve me well in the coming months and years. Time will tell, as always, but I’ve already been enjoying a few of my new pieces.  So far, so good…

Now it may seem like I was picking on Nordstrom in my commentary on retail marketing messages, but I was merely using them as an example. They may be slightly shrewder in their marketing than other stores, but all retail establishments use the same types of messaging. They do it because it’s effective.  Playing upon FOMO and shoppers’ scarcity mentality – as well as promoting exclusivity and the “cool factor” – works.  Just look at how popular Apple products are and how jam-packed the Apple stores are at every mall.

Retailers know how to get people to buy and those of us who want to shop more wisely and consciously would be well-served to understand the ways in which they manipulate us.   Knowledge is power, after all.  Once we know how we’re being “played,” we can better choose whether or not we want to allow that to happen.

Your Thoughts?

Now it’s your turn to weigh in…  I’d love to get your thoughts on sales, marketing messages, FOMO, and related topics:

  • What do you notice about how retailers pressure us to buy?  
  • How do you resist the temptation to overshop? 
  • Did you shop the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale?  If so, did you notice the same things I did? 

I invite you to share your input on these subjects, as well as anything else you want to say to me and your fellow readers.


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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been looking forward to hearing how you handled the sale. I struggled with it this year, as I have happy memories of shopping the NAS with my friends when I was younger. I almost got tempted to take out a credit card this year. What stopped me was, like you, assessing what I really needed and being able to “pre-shop” online. This helped me see there wasn’t much I wanted. The fact that it is in the high 80s with incredible humidity didn’t hurt. I live in So. Cal and work at home, and as you know, there’s not much need for sweaters and coats here, nor do I need “work clothes.” I purchased 3 things, returned 2 and will likely return the 3rd.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      The timing of NAS is not the best for those of us in California, Karin. Our summers start later than in most of the rest of the country and last longer. One of my criteria for shopping the sale was to buy things that I could wear sooner rather than later. I don’t want to buy things now and have to wait until November to wear them. They did have some lighter weight items and I took advantage of those. There is really only one garment that I got that is definitely for the cooler weather, but it’s something I wanted in the past and that I knew would work out for me. I have a lot of memories of shopping the sale, too, but I didn’t love it so much this year. I don’t love shopping in general much anymore. It’s much more “utilitarian” for me these days and I no longer lose myself in it. Good for you for being a smart NAS shopper. If you end up returning everything you bought, maybe the sale isn’t for you. There’s nothing wrong with that…

  2. What I want to comment on was the deluge of marketing on many of the shopping/daily outfit bloggers that I read. I don’t know whether Nordstrom requires that they talk up the sale or if the store just pays the highest commissions but it was excessive to the point of being a huge turnoff.

    I know GOMI isn’t to everyone’s taste, but they had a really interesting thread about the sale and how it was marketed via blogs and bloggers. The general consensus seemed to be that a good thing is rapidly turning sour by trying to be a bigger and better deal each year.

    • Margaret says:

      Sara, I feel exactly the same way that you do. All of this blogger marketing of the NAS is a huge huge turn-off to shopping this sale. And no I didn’t shop this sale and do not shop at Nordstrom as I don’t feel that the quality of their clothing is there (or at least the quality never matches the price) and also I feel that their selection is very generic (same thing that I can get at any other department store). I generally do not shop at department stores for this very reason. The really really excessive amount of consumerism and huge crowds within these places is a tremendous turn-off. I much prefer a more curated and selective experience.

      Honestly if a store needs to hype up their sales to the point where it becomes a huge party event, they probably aren’t really that great in the first place. They try to use smoke and mirrors to attract people who hopefully won’t realize that they don’t need all of the “newness” that they are selling. Debbie, those messages that you took photos of are very disheartening. I really think that they are very demeaning to their clientele who they want to reduce to being shallow and mindless consumers. People are far more than that. Quite frankly if I were a loyal Nordstrom customer, I would be quite outraged at their marketing tactics and I would never go shopping there again.

      • Hi Margaret, I’d be really interested to hear where you shop for quality clothes. As we all know it’s become very difficult, and some of my favorite pieces have actually come from Nordstrom, although I don’t shop there too often because I don’t live near a store, so I do it all online and it can be a hassle to return.

        I agree that the marketing tactics are a huge turnoff. The way stores encourage destructive habits is really disgusting to me.

        • Margaret says:

          Hi Sarah, I shop mostly on Ebay (I’ve had a lot of success finding pre-recession Jcrew from there (the wool quality during that period was phenomenal, heavy wool) and Boden pieces that sold out; pieces of great quality from random brands), followed by Ureshii (custom made clothing), Etsy (some of the custom made shops are great and they are great for accessories), Boden (one of the very very few clothing retailers that I shop at for their unique pieces, good sales, and customer service; they are British so I never see anyone wearing their things), and Uniqlo for down jackets, heat tech layers, and their merino wool V neck sweaters. I’m also looking into an eco-friendly brand: Ecoskin for their draped pieces. Stewart+brown (the eco-friendly brand), I have a few pieces in my closet, but very rarely do I find their pieces on Ebay anymore (they are on hiatus). Their hand-knit wools, cashmeres are on par with $500 to $1000+ “designer” pieces imo.

          One thing I’ve learned is that quality clothing is never in the stores and I never find the colors, sizes, styles I want anyways. =) So unless I’m going into a store to look at a specific item, I don’t go into one.

      • Thanks Debbie for this article. I often read the blog but rarely comment. I too was in Nordstrom’s a couple of times during the sale (on route to another store in the mall to do a return) and quickly looked around but didn’t buy anything. The one ad that got to me in particular was the “you can never have too many shoes…” With that one I quickly mentally answered “yes I can” and walked out without looking further. I am doing a major declutter right now and a shopping ban for 3 months (renewing it another 3 months with the goal of hitting a year). Earlier that day, I counted up all the shoes I have and wear: I have 42 shoes /boots right now but really only wear about 14. Buying shoes is more of a problem for me than other clothes. I have been reading a lot about minimalism lately and also how consumption is really skewed in developed nations and how it terribly affects developing nations. My “collection” of items started to disgust me, realizing I have way more than I could reasonably use, never mind all the wasted dollars. I am glad Debbie analyzed the Nordstrom’s ads in a public manner, as I had done privately in my mind. My first feeling when seeing the ads was “Nordstroms and I are on different sides of the battle.” That said, I did purchase a small make-up bag from them before the NAS that I am very happy with as it organizes my streamlined make-up”capsule”. That bag didn’t go on sale for the NAS. I tended to ignore all the blog posts hyping the NAS, deleting them rather than reading them. I think the NAS is too pumped up, and while some may like to “be cool” and participate, some of us realize it’s cooler not too.

        • Debbie Roes says:

          I’m glad you decided to comment on this post, Rosee, as you made some really good points. I thought the same thing as you when I saw the ads. I know that Nordstrom is running a business and wants to turn a good profit, but the ads and signs were really over the top this year. It DOES feel like they are pumping up NAS too much. I know it represents a big percentage of their sales each year, but I think people would still shop the sale without the type of messaging they used this year. I agree with you that it can be “cooler” NOT to participate. We all have to be in touch with what does and doesn’t work for us. If we choose to shop NAS or any other sale, we should do it to benefit ourselves, not Nordstrom or any other retailer.

          • Thank you Debbie for your reply. I realize now that my last sentence came off differently than I intended. There is nothing wrong with shopping the NAS if you feel the need or even the desire to. What I meant to say was that their ads this year made feel slightly rebellious to their tactics; as in “be cool, shop our sale” with which most people know the truly “cool” people are those that don’t try to be. I don’t want to be cool by their definition. I do still like the store though.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I was going to write about the bloggers, Sara, but then I forgot to add that when I actually wrote the post. Thank you for mentioning that issue, as it was something that irritated me, too. Almost every style blogger was touting the SAME items from NAS. The only one who I thought did a good post on the sale was Bridgette Raes, as she included tips for shopping at a sale and had a more curated selection of recommendations. I went and read the GOMI thread you mentioned and found it very interesting. It does seem that Nordstrom pays a higher percentage to affiliates, but all of the bloggers plugging the sale left a bad taste in my mouth.

      The way that NAS is being marketed is starting to turn me off of Nordstrom and I have been a loyal customer for years. I also agree with Margaret about the decline in quality, but I have noticed that everywhere. I can see how buying on eBay could be a good alternative, but one really has to know both brands and sizes well. At this point in my journey, I still feel the need to try everything on and have the opportunity to return things.

  3. Marguerite says:

    Wow Debbie, this is a very powerful post. I’m not sure if you realise how powerful. You admit that you would like to streamline further your buying in the sale next year but to me that is just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. I think you have already had a fundamental sea change in outlook and are light years from where you used to stand. You are cooly appraising, observing and analysing, not carried away in an emotional tsunami of anxieties, fears, adrenaline (‘will this garment change the essential me for the better’, ‘is this the magic garment that will make people admire me’, ‘I may never see another one of these again’….). Wonderful, it’s a huge achievement for you.
    I am currently battling sugar addiction and I sat with my 9 yr old son the other day in the cinema, quietly noting to him how 9 of the 14 pre film adverts were all about sweets, breakfast cereals, soft drinks – how we are implicitly informed by the marketing that these sugary confections will bond our friendship groups, make us happy, brighten up our day. Once you are the editor of what’s streaming into your consciousness, you drive how you shape the narrative in your head; you’re no longer directed nor consumed by it. For in truth many of us are less consumers and more the consumed – our hard earned cash gobbled up by the corporate giants who have no concern about our emotional and physical well being, just their profit margin.
    Brava to you!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I really appreciate your kind words, Marguerite. I’m glad you liked the post and thought it was powerful. I do notice that I have come a long way in terms of my shopping-related thoughts and behavior. I don’t know if there were those types of signs up all around at NAS in previous years, but I didn’t really notice them. I think my mindset is very different than it was before, so I’m noticing things that would have been at the periphery of my consciousness in the past. Interesting what you wrote about the ads before the movie. Those ads are relatively new. We used to just get previews for upcoming movies. It’s sad that the indoctrination of kids starts so young… It’s good that you are pointing these things out to your son so he can become more aware at a young age. You are helping him to be the editor of his own consciousness, which will be highly valuable to him over the course of his life.

  4. I didn’t feel pressured to shop. To be honest I felt pretty much the same as the others mentioned re: blogger marketing, sort of being hit over the head, ugh! And… I’m never inspired to shop for Fall/Winter items when it’s 100 degrees (Northern California) . However, I did purchased a pair boarder shorts and a pair athletic shoes for my sons (terrific deals) and a bottle of Trish Mcevoy foundation (all items needed). I coveted a pair of Sam Edelmans leopard heels which I placed in my online shopping bag along with two shirts for my husband. After a few days my strong desire for those shoes passed and I realize my husband didn’t need the shirts, yay!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Good for you for shopping the sale smartly, Renee. There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of sales to buy things we actually need, but many people buy things simply BECAUSE they are on sale. I wondered when I saw women buying large stacks of items, how many they would keep and how many of those would be worn regularly. I’m guessing the percentage is low overall. If we choose to shop NAS or other sales, WE need to be in control of what we are buying and not let Nordstrom or other retailers convince us of “pseudo needs” that didn’t exist before we saw their marketing materials.

  5. Avimatic says:

    I’ve never bought during the NAS – I think because I’ve never lived near a Nordstrom’s! I did follow a few links from other bloggers to specific items or catagories but nothing was on my shopping list so I never placed an order online.

    The pattern that has helped me the most is thinking about what else I want to do with my money. We recently got back from vacation and I saved up spending money for that trip (no clothing bought, a few accessories for me and gifts for friends!) so most of my shopping this Summer has been for replacements & now I’m saving for my annual birthday shopping trip in September so I won’t spend very much in August.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Very good tip, Avimatic. I think we often spend money as a default, because we don’t stop to consider what our true priorities are. I have noticed that with myself with my clothes shopping – buying what’s in front of me instead of what I really needs – and with spending overall – buying clothes and the like instead of saving money for a vacation or something else I want to do. Good for you for being wise with your spending and saving up for your birthday shopping trip. I actually like that idea. I often use birthday money to shop at NAS (my birthday is 8/8), but it would be smarter to actually allocate funds for that in advance like you do. Happy early birthday to you!

  6. I agree the hype on various blogs was a turnoff – there was just so much of it. However, I did appreciate the YLF breakdown of various items and how they fit Angie’s clients. It helped me to rule out some items I considered that were available online only. I shop the NAS by appointment & purchased some full price items as well as sale items but didn’t overdo it. Overall, I’m very happy with my purchases. They did sell out of some items I wanted before the end of the sale, so there is something to FOMO. However, I’ll either wait until they restock (& reduce the price again once fall is really here) or find something else.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I agree that Angie’s NAS posts are much more helpful than the majority of the posts about the sale (and I also mentioned Bridgette Raes’ NAS post in response to another comment above). Angie’s picks are “curated” based upon her pre-shopping the sale with her clients and seeing and touching the merchandise. She gets to see which items are really good vs. those things that SEEM good online but aren’t really. Yes, FOMO related to NAS can be real, as I know they do sell out of things (often actually). I’m glad you are happy with your purchases, Lisa. I hope you will be able to get those things you missed out on or will be able to find suitable replacements for those items you actually need.

  7. I do not live near a Nordstroms, or any other upscale department store for that matter, except Lord and Taylor. I did grow up in Northern NJ, and back then, did do a lot of shopping at the higher end retailers.

    Since I never buy clothing or accessories online, shopping has faded into the background of my life over the past few decades. But I do like nice things, so I have to admit when I visit my hometown, I do try to get to the high end mall. I really think living in a geographic area that is “retail deprived” is quite helpful, especially for those of us that have to “see,touch, smell, try on” and don’t shop online.

    You are spot on about the marketing ploys used by Nordstrom and others.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Very good point, Sherri. For a year and a half, I lived in the Lake Tahoe area. This was back before online shopping became such a big thing (it was 2000-2002). During that time, I shopped A LOT less because it was a long drive to the nearest mall. If I had stayed there, I might not have needed to start this blog! But maybe I needed to go through this whole journey to get to the other side and help others to do the same. I’m glad that shopping has faded into the background of your life. I’m working on having that be the case for me, too. It’s definitely occupying a much smaller space in my life than it used to.

      • Debbie, I want to echo what others have said, this is an outstanding post. It also shows how far you have come in your recovery. Something others might not realize is that you live in one of the best shopping mecca cities in the US, where it takes great discipline to resist shopping. When I have been in San Diego (and when I’m in the SF Bay area) I’ve had to rein myself in because I like the taste of the SD and SF Nordstrom petite “Buyers” far more than our store here in Santa Barbara, where our petite selection is pitifully small. In SB if I want to go into a store and try clothes on (my first choice) I have only two stores to chose from. Other stores have petite only online, with a shipping charge. The lack of my size is terrible when I “need” something, and wonderful the rest of the time because it keeps me away from stores and away from online shopping. When I do need a basic item I tend to use Nordstrom with free shipping and an easy drive to return if need be. Yet the NAS advertising is a great turn off. In July at the sale I bought only a new bra and a new pair of jeans, items that were marked down and that I one-hundred percent need and will use. Thanks for this post, and I’m cheering for you on your newfound shopping wisdom! It has taken me a few years and slowly I’m reaching my goal of moving from minimal(ish) to happily minimal.

        • Debbie Roes says:

          Yes, this IS a shopping mecca here, especially the Fashion Valley mall, which is 15-20 minutes from where I live. That Nordstrom is a really good one, too. The only better one I’ve seen is South Coast Plaza. I’m sure the Seattle ones are great, too, but I haven’t been to those. And I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area, where shopping is excellent, too, and where my shopaholism began. When I lived in Lake Tahoe for a year and a half, I shopped a lot less, but that was before online shopping became big. Congrats on doing so well with the sale! It’s a good time to buy bras and I bought two. And how great that you found jeans, too. Being happily minimal is a good goal to have and I know you will get there.

  8. Debbie, looking forward to your analysis! I looked for a couple of items that have been on my list for awhile during the sale but they were already sold out. I don’t need these items right away so I’ve been waiting for the appropriate sale for many months. So I guess partly the FOMO is based on reality with this particular sale… However I have looked around online and convinced myself that there are many viable alternatives, which left me with a feeling of NOT missing out.

    On a related note, I just watched this TED talk the other day which I thought would be of interest to you. It’s about “materialism” in western culture and some of the feelings it is based on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJgiYBdD2VA I think you will really like it!

    Also, I just discovered ThredUp, has anyone else used it? It’s basically a mid-high end online consignment store which actually allows returns (unlike many stores on Ebay). I got some good deals and am looking forward to seeing the items in person and whether this is a good way to shop. The only thing I found a bit frustrating is that the color is not always listed in the description so it’s hard to tell black from navy (although you can filter results) and sometimes there is no fiber content listed. For those of us who are getting dangerously close to our budget limits, I wonder if this will be a good way to pick up those few fall and winter items I will still need. (or should I say “need”…?)

    • I hope your ThredUp order works out! Just an FYI, they accept returns but do charge a restocking fee. I had a bad experience with them a few months back – you mention color, but they also didn’t indicate that items I ordered were 1) a petite size and 2) AAAA (super narrow) instead of medium width shoes. To me both of those are an error in the items’ descriptions, but it would have been up to me to pay the restocking fee because they said they weren’t at fault because their systems did not have a way to indicate the special sizing. I had a really good experience with them as a seller back when they were less well-known, but they changed their payout policies this summer and it’s not nearly as worthwhile as it once was.

      To end on a positive note: I think the best deals on ThredUp can be found in designer or high-end brands that are not popular with 20-somethings and/or fashion bloggers in general. Because a lot of their business is marketed through those bloggers and caters to that demographic they have to price the “unknown” brands better in order to move them.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      You’re right that things sell out fast at NAS, Sarah. They re-stock some things, but others are just gone. So, yes, FOMO is a reality when it comes to NAS. That’s part of why I agreed to go on the first day of pre-shopping with my friend. I do think a few of the items I bought were probably gone by the time the “real sale” started. But you’re right that there are viable alternatives for pretty much everything elsewhere.

      I have heard of ThredUp on a few blogs, but I’ve never looked at the site or tried it myself. I’m glad that Sara chimed in with her feedback on that site and I hope that perhaps a few others will share their input, too. It seems like it could be a good service if you know how to use it wisely. I’m staying away from secondhand shopping at the moment because my track record has been so bad with it, but if you use this service, please report back and let us know how it goes for you.

  9. Wow, Debbie! ” Deliberate” is written all over this post… In your pre-sale planning, in your observations of your environment, in your analysis, and (it looks like) in your purchases as well! Such a huge change from the “mindless” shopping you talked about in previous years! I have not lived near a Nordie’s in years, and would likely find the NAS tempting, but have been off the shopping wagon for over 9 months, now. It is time for my last P333 (more like P503 for me), and I am happy to shop my closet for this last round. I will admit that I have a shopping list in the back of my calendar that I have been adding to, and crossing off from, since last November. This alone, is teaching me a great deal about what I need vs. want, and what and why I want to buy! I hope to make wise choices in November rather than shop higgledy-piggledy. Again, congratulations on your progress!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for pointing that out, Liz. I’m happy to be being more deliberate with my shopping. Best wishes with your last round of P333 (or P503 – the numbers are less important than the concept). Congrats on doing SO well with your year of now shopping. Your progress is very inspiring!

  10. Interesting blog. I must admit that I don’t notice how sales are marketed because I don’t ANY attention to what retailers (including the one I work for) use for marketing. I shop when I need to replace something and that’s it. I don’t have credit cards from retailers and I don’t sign up for e-mail or text alerts or anything other “announcement” sort of thing. I recycle the few (unsolicited) catalogs I get each year (about 3 in Nov./Dec.) away without looking inside. I don’t need any external stimuli to help me manage and replace my wardrobe as needed. Except for work, I seldom go into a store or shop on-line. I did buy a swimsuit earlier this week to replace my old one, and yes, it was on sale (an added bonus) but I had already decided to buy said swimsuit in August figuring it would be on sale (I know this from a life of shopping, not from a text alert). And I as I had trouble completely the on-line sale, I had to call the help line to complete the sale and I asked for an additional discount (free shipping). Would signage (if a bricks and mortar retailer) e-mail alerts have made a difference? Probably not. I don’t know what FOMO is like. If I didn’t buy a swimsuit this week, I could have waited until next year 0r maybe later in the season. Or not. Machs nicht.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I think many of us have a goal of shopping more like you do, Dottie, and being impervious to sales pressures. The best way to shop is when we have a defined need for something. Sales can be great for that, but many people shop sales in an entirely different way. FOMO is what keeps a lot of retailers going. Nordstrom really didn’t need those signs to get people to shop and the signs felt like overkill to me. Interesting that I never really noticed them before because I’m sure they were there…

  11. This is probably one of your best posts, ever.
    I agree the hype about this sale ALL OVER got ridiculous. When I finally got the catalog, I was like eh. In previous years you could actually find new and interesting designs, now it’s so basic or retreads of existing stuff.
    I even contacted my sales associate and she only suggested three fashion items for me. I got one cardigan, some workout gear and one bra.
    Though Nordies drift to their in house brands and in my opinion boring fashion, well it saves me money because I don’t find as much I like. So maybe this is a good thing.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad you liked this post, Anna. Yes, I wasn’t as excited by the offerings this year. I wondered if it was just me and the fact that I’m not as much of a shopaholic as before, but I’ve seen others say what you said. I think it’s getting harder and harder in general to find original and exciting fashion. A lot of it is seeming so homogenous lately. I’m glad you found a few good things. Some people have written that NAS is a good time to find basics, so maybe that should be the focus for many of us in the future.

  12. Deborah (Deby) says:

    What I find so amusing about NAS is that I have a Nordstrom card which I use, but not to excess. I must not be a “high enough roller” because I HAVE NEVER have received notification of the NAS sale (and I have had my card for years)–and certainly not a catalog like what you show here! I don’t even know the sale is going on unless I see it on your post! How’s that for bad marketing? You would think as a cardholder Nordstrom would send me a catalog. I might even buy something if they would remember me.

    We have a large Nordstrom here, as well as a Nordstrom Rack. My west coast friends have been extolling Nordstrom for years, and when they finally opened a store here, I didn’t think their merchandise was that much more special than some of what our existing equivalent stores had to offer. When I’ve shopped at Rack, the clothing seems to be way too trend-driven; either embellished too much, of a too-busy style, or made from a fabric that I know wouldn’t last a season, so I seldom buy clothing there. I will buy shoes and accessories though. They also sell skin care and cosmetics that I will sometimes purchase.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I am definitely not a Nordstrom “high roller,” Deby, at least not anymore. I wonder why you don’t get notification of NAS. It must be a glitch of some sort. I don’t love Nordstrom as much as I used to, but I haven’t found any other stores that I love more. I never shop at the Rack because it’s too crowded and chaotic for me and also not as conveniently located. Nordstrom is very good for shoes, as that’s what they started out selling (I learned that years ago when I worked at a Nordstrom).

  13. I’m so tired of all the marketing. I’ve never shopped the Nordstrom sale, and have no intentions of ever doing so. But I recently stumbled upon a lingerie/pajama retailer’s semi-annual sale and decided to buy some pj’s. They convinced me to sign up for their email list to receive discounts, and I thought I would because I could see myself shopping the sale every year to get more pj’s (seriously, I had visions of eventually replacing ALL my sleepwear with this brand). Oh my, the email marketing has been incessant. It’s been driving me up the wall, and it’s all FOMO type messages – shop now or it’ll be gone forever type things. I tried to switch my preferences to weekly emails only, and nothing happened. I’ve now tried unsubscribing totally and will have to see how that goes. But seriously, once your eyes are opened to it, the emotional tricks they try to pull are far too much. And obviously, successful for them. For every person like me that gets turned off and decides to just go back to TJ Maxx or wherever, they must have a lot of people making repeat purchases.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I have had trouble with those types of emails, too, Sarah. The marketing is really overkill for many retailers. I know it’s a very competitive industry, but I would imagine that a lot of consumers are getting turned off like many of us are. I wonder if we’ll see a shift in marketing tactics in the future. I sure hope so… Even if we are not susceptible to the FOMO type messages, it gets so tiring to see them over and over again.

  14. Great post Debbie. It does sound as though you are making great strides in mastering your new attitude to shopping and leading a more fulfilling life. I have really been paying attention to the messages being sent to us through e-mail and other forms of marketing and it is astonishing just how prevalent this FOMO is. It no longer has an effect on me as it used to. I, too, have realized that owning the latest “it” thing is not going to make me any cooler or change my life in the long term. There is always another thing to make you happier and more fabulous than the last thing. Earlier in the year I “konmari’d” my entire house and this month I have started my very first capsule wardrobe challenge. I had to take baby steps and I am doing the 30×30 challenge which I know is barely a challenge for others, but for me it is HUGE! I am hoping this challenge will make me more thoughtful about my future purchases and help me hone my style. Watching your progress and setbacks and recovery has been a true inspiration.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on your KonMari successes, Lori, and on doing the 30 x 30 challenge. I may opt to do that one later this year. Back when I first did Project 333, it was definitely HUGE for me and it made a big difference in how I saw my wardrobe. I hope you grow and learn a lot from doing your challenge. Thanks for your kind words about me and my blog. You are totally right that owning the latest “it” thing won’t made us happier or more fabulous, but we all have to learn that for ourselves.

  15. What an interesting post. Being English and living near London, I had heard of Nordstrom, but new nothing about their sale! This year a number of online American based retailers forwarded me on to the Nordstrom site. I found it very informative and different from English retailers. It used harder Marketing messages and I could see why it becomes addictive.
    The FOMO messages were loud and clear.
    However, just like here, you have to remember that you can usually find the same item somewhere else, for the same price (sometimes even less). All retailers are in competition with each other and need your purchasing power. You have the power not them.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective on some of the differences in marketing tactics between American and English retailers, Linda. I think FOMO is a much bigger thing in the US than elsewhere. You are right that we can usually find what we need when we need it and often at lower prices than at the big sales. And it is definitely true that the buyers have the power. We need to remember that…

  16. great post debbie!!! the NAS is never one i shop much, one, because i closed my nordstrom charge account years ago (I do have a debit account now, but never use it), and two, because i’m terrible at shopping out of season, and don’t normally even recommend it. i’ve made too many mistakes that way… i do often purchase my favorite bras and panties, because they’ll be good prices then, but i didn’t this year, because i repeated over and over again that i don’t need any more. even though it’s SO tempting to stock up 🙂

    and as a blogger, i can tell you that a certain affiliate program specifically hypes the sale up as well, providing strategy tips, etc., and probably many bloggers are getting paid a flat fee in addition to their affiliate commissions to post about the sale. i don’t know who or for sure that that’s the case (hopefully they disclosed it if they did get paid) because i tend not to read those bloggers…but it’s not impossible. not that there’s anything wrong with that as long as it’s disclosed and reasonable in tone. nordstrom does pay good commissions too FWIW

    i find it very helpful to my readers to go and try things on and give fit advice, as i do for nearly every sale – of specific things i/they might be interested in, but other than that, i hope i personally don’t seem pushy or like i’m trying to “sell the sale” – i honestly find some of those marketing messages ridiculous. and i’m getting tired of the “said no woman ever” meme. yes, you CAN have too many shoes, too much jewelry, too many bags, etc. as we well know…

    thank you for this post debbie. brilliant, as always 🙂

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for chiming in, Grechen, and I’m glad you liked this post. I appreciate your perspective both as a shopper and as a blogger. I knew the affiliate commissions (and possibly flat fee) must be high for Nordstrom because almost every single blogger seemed to be promoting NAS. I think it’s great that you try things on and give fit advice and I love how honest you are about everything. You don’t say that everything is SO amazing even if it isn’t. I don’t think you ever seem pushy. You are authentic, honest, and real. I wish all bloggers were…

  17. I haven’t shopped the Nordstrom sale in three years. My last purchase during the NAS was a Bobbi Brown anniversary kit. I’ve done the whole “make an appointment and step behind the curtain” routine, which I found silly. The catalogs in recent years haven’t impressed me in the least. I follow several blogs daily, and many of them were touting the NAS. It became a bit tiresome.

    Now that the sale is over, I have no regrets about missing anything.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you have no regrets, Maddie. Yes, the promotion of the sale by bloggers DID get tiresome. I didn’t like the appointments and stepping behind the curtain, either. I hope they stick with how they did things this year. I’m not as impressed with the sale as I used to be, but I wasn’t sure how much of it was the sale offerings and how much of it was about MY changes.

  18. Great post and what a good place you’re in! Agree that you are being very deliberate!

    I don’t ever shop the NAS or at Nordstrom at all nor at most retailers. I like thrift for not always seeing the same thing/colors/silhouettes/fits. Also the frugality of it – I don’t shop the more expensive consignment. Also I like finding the unexpected and having a gut reaction to it. I do much better when I acquire things that please me vs things I feel I should have. Plus I can do my own alterations. And I set an arbitrary budget of trying to come in under fifty dollars a month. Hubby says it is my hobby.

    Though once upon a time I discovered I was a hoarder and had rooms full of piles, bagged clothes, collapsing racks. That was unacceptable to me and I spent about 9 months working every day to undo all that. I used to feel having the “right” clothing might keep me safe from social unpleasantness. And I was even an “overprepared” introvert who spoke in public, ran for office, etc. I didn’t recognize that I wasn’t an extrovert until I read some of Imogen’s stuff. Anyway, I reversed all my thinking and behavior toward clothing and my house has been clear for over a decade.

    I find Imogen’s psychological posts just wonderfully illuminating. One of her latest:
    http://www.insideoutstyleblog.com/2015/08/abcs-match-or-mismatch.html
    explains perfectly why I don’t shop the NAS but also why skimming over what everyone got/recommends is a huge shopping turnoff for me! Yes, the outfits look good on *them* and I can appreciate that but I don’t want to look like them/everybody else. I don’t aim to look like Iris Apfel or the other Advanced Style gals, either, but I like the idea of folks looking a little closer at me and finding my individual charms, while still looking appropriate for the venue.

    My main shopping cautions are in accumulating too many good choices and in dealing with the weather. I grew up in Southern California semi-desert where it did get hot but was not steamy.
    I have a weakness for blazers, often worn as toppers, or at least I persuade myself so. In reality, I have to grab every chance I can to wear one because we have a short fall and non-existent erratic spring. Pretty soon it is too humid to wear a blazer, even unlined and when it get cold, wearing one under a coat I start to feel layered up like the South Park kids. But I have such a weakness for the blazers and get much joy from them. I don’t think I’m likely to be a minimalist but I have no trouble purging either older items that are in a past direction from where I’m going or newer acquisitions that are not returnable and were the best I could discern in the horrible yellow light, the distorted funhouse mirror in the ladies room, and my best guess at how something will feel and drape when I do the alterations. I also only shop at a very few thrifts and don’t do yard sales – people too jealous of the value of their discards and I’m too much of an introvert to enjoy shmoozing them. For some reason when they see me, they jack up the prices considerably so on the rare occasions I accompany my friend to one and see something, she always gets it for me because they give her a logical price. 😀

    • Debbie Roes says:

      This sentence really resonated with me, Vildy: I used to feel having the “right” clothing might keep me safe from social unpleasantness. That has been true for me, too, and was a big part of why I kept buying. But I realize now that I need to feel good INSIDE and that new clothes won’t do that for me. I think it’s great that you do so well with thrifting. I used to think I did, too, until I did an analysis and found that my resale buys usually weren’t the best. I would like to get back to doing some secondhand shopping now that I am in a better frame of mind with it all, but I will likely go to new stores and only do it once in a great while. I love Imogen’s psychological posts, too! I studied psychology in college, so I always love to read about that topic. The post you linked to was a good one and I appreciate your sharing it here.

  19. Wow. I had no idea. There is a Nordstroms in my town. I have been there a couple of times but never made a purchase. Too expensive. So it’s good I avoid their big sale, even online. I have problems getting carried away with sales. Maybe that is why their signs seem so offensive to me. I get that it’s supposed to be funny but I’m not laughing. I hope they have a little more respect for their patrons. The whole experience sounds less like a store and more like a casino. Sort of a ‘maybe you’ll get lucky’ vibe. Right down to catering to the high rollers. It seems more likely one would lose themselves rather than find themselves in that atmosphere. But you seemed to rise above that world, deftly and deliberately. You had purpose. I look forward to your accountability post for more on your thought process.

    • Misty: You may be onto to something with your “casino” observation. I worry that so much of our GDP (or whatever it’s called these days) is based on the acquisition of “stuff”: cars, refrigerators, back-to-school supplies, and so on. I work in retail and so I understand (a bit) the pressures that retailers (B&M or on-line) are under. However, I never “up sell” a customer — in fact, I tend to dissuade (subtly) people from buying (IMHO) the “wrong” items — wrong color or style or whatever. (Instead, I will go and find a better option for the customer, if need be.) I wish I were a personal shopper because I spend a lot of time with customers helping them find the clothes they need (vs want). Yes, my sales goal “benefits” from people with armfuls of sales items but I ALWAYS ask: “What are you going to wear this with?” or “Are you buying this for a special occasion [vacation, wardrobe update, job interview, etc.]?” because I want to help the customer make the best clothing purchase they can. Eh, sales! There are pluses and minuses about sales and clearance racks. IF you have a grip on your shopping habits, you can really score some great buys. But if the siren song of the sales text alert generates some anxiety of FOMO, maybe having a pedicure instead might help – very calming and your pretty toes will thank you. One last thought: even though the NAS signage is a bit irksome, Nordies does limit the number of sales annually – unlike a number of other retailers.

      • That is good to hear. Perhaps I am too cynical… And I do have a case of FOMO that I am wrestling with as we speak. I think I’ll skip the pedicure and focus on a hobby of mine instead, thanks for the intervention.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Very astute to compare the NAS to a casino, Misty. What you wrote was really right on. I had never thought of that before, but it makes sense. I was not totally immune to it all this year, but I was happy to have done a lot better than last year. I did end up returning some things, but I feel that the items I kept will serve me well. Next year, I hope to be even more deliberate with it all.

      Dottie, I think it’s great that you think so much of your customers’ needs and not just about your bottom line. In the long run, I think you will come out ahead anyway, as the customers will be satisfied with what they buy and more likely to buy from you again. You’re right on about sales, too. They CAN be a great way to maximize our clothing dollars, but we have to keep our wits about us in the process. I am getting much better about this. It has taken me a while, but I’m happy to be using my brain a lot more when I shop these days. Before, my emotions totally ran the show and it was disastrous…

  20. I like to shop at Nordstrom, I think they have nice things.
    The timing of the sale isn’t good for me. By the time July comes along I am usually staring at a suitcase dashing out for a swimsuit, shorts, new swim shorts or a t-shirt dress to wear out to dinner at the beach.
    As I try to shop more effectively I have moved away from shopping so far out of season. An analysis of things I’ve bought pre-season (July purchases for Winter, January purchases for Summer) has lead me to realize that often they turn out to be duds. It’s better for me to risk a smaller selection and shop closer to the time I’ll wear the things. By that point I have an idea of what colors I’ll want to wear and I’ll have been able to survey the retail scene and buy what I really like as opposed to what one shop is showing. The Internet has improved the “out of my size” problem a lot because many times you can go home and order the size the store doesn’t have.
    It’s not like any of us have a small closet. If something wonderful gets sold out at the NAS your chances of finding something else you love as much in a few weeks are usually pretty good, and you can wear the gazillion other things in your closet until then.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Your point about the timing is a good one, Ginger. Where I live, summer only starts in July, as we have cool and overcast weather in May and June. I think it’s a good practice to buy things we can wear right away whenever possible. Most of what I bought at NAS can be worn soon and I have already worn some of the items. The sale is supposed to be for Fall items, but there were plenty of sleeveless and short-sleeved tops there, as well as some open-toed shoes. There is some crossover. I wish the sale were in August instead of July, as that is closer to when a lot of people (not me, though) start thinking about Fall. Your last paragraph was right on and important to remember…

  21. Katherine says:

    Hi Debbie, I haven’t commented for a while but always read your posts! Thanks for all the hard work you put into your site.

    I did shop the sale this year, but was pretty underwhelmed at the selection. The main item on my radar was brown leather boots, and the sale selections just didn’t jive with what I wanted. I shopped online the first (second!) day of the pre-sale, and bought some bras and t-shirts (two Majestic crew neck t-shirts, well worth the price), and a pair of athletic shoes for my youngest son. We ended up returning the shoes because they were too small. When we took the shoes back, I looked around, but nothing caught my eye. Could I have been in a hurry because I had an 8 and 12 year old boy in tow?! I really took the plunge on the second to last day of the sale, and bought sheets, pillowcases, a duvet and cover from the Westin Heavenly Bed collection. A pretty penny for sure, but we’ve needed new bedding for too long, and my husband agreed that it was a good deal and a fantastic way to celebrate our anniversary! Hubby has been deployed since January, and the kids and I didn’t take an out of state vacation this year. So hubby and I got new bedding, and the boys got new bikes! 🙂

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for your comment, Katherine. It sounds like you did well with the sale. I didn’t know about Majestic t-shirts, but I appreciate the recommendation. It’s always hard to find good t-shirts that are comfortable and durable. I find so many of them fall apart after just a few washings. I also didn’t know that Nordstrom sold bedding, but I will keep that in mind. I like the idea of new bedding as an anniversary present. Best wishes on your husband’s deployment. That must be really hard for you. I always admire military families. I hope you will be able to take a vacation after he returns safely home.

  22. TexasAggieMom says:

    Debbie, this post truly shows how far you’ve come in your recovery journey – congratulations! I am so glad you got photos of the signage. I had left my phone in the car to charge when I was in there, but was indignant when I saw the “more I find/better I feel” signage and immediately wished I could send you a photo of it! They were much more blatant and over the top this year, but even realizing that, I didn’t do as well with this sale struggle as I had hoped. I actually set my alarm clock for 2:00 a.m.when the sale started to order my favorite Wacoal bra in a great new color and to replace the two colors I wear most often; so far, so good. (FOMO – it’s REAL.) I had also allotted myself the purchase of one dress, which I used on the green print Maggy London sheath dress – worth every penny if you’re tall and look good in green. Again, so far, so good. Then I added several cheap sweaters but overall kept it in reason. When my items arrived, I decided to keep the bras and dress and take everything else back, along with another couple of items I had bought earlier in the summer. Suddenly, I had quite a bit of open credit on my account and decided my NAS strategy should be to buy one investment piece each summer. There was a $600 Boss dress in the $400 range that I decided I had to have. Waiting for it was like waiting for Christmas as a kid – my fabulous investment purchase, an all-purpose black sheath dress. Imagine my disappointment when it arrived, shorter than described on-line and feeling very cheap and thin, even for the sale price, much less the original $600. Disappointed beyond words, I hit the website again before the sale ended, and when I made the trip to return the dress, I also picked up a scarf. Which of course, I could “afford” because I had just returned over $500 worth of stuff. Such a roller coaster ride, and throughout the process, I’m thinking about having to report this to Lorraine in my shopping research journal, and how I wanted to email you to process what was going on. Even though I recognized what was happening, I STILL LET IT HAPPEN. I am almost relieved that the sale is finally over. Finally tally: one dress that I love at a great price, a good scarf I’ll probably keep, a replacement black pencil skirt, three bras and a cashmere travel wrap. Better than previous years, but plenty of room for improvement. I definitely succumbed to the pressure from other bloggers, as their posts caused me to notice pieces that I had completely overlooked in the catalog, on-line and in-store. Why am I still letting strangers dictate what I should wear??? Here’s to our continued mutual improvement and better decisions next year!

    • I hesitated to comment on this post since most of what I am reading is “I don’t shop it” etc, but I also got sucked in this year. I got a pair of black jeans that I love, some black booties that are low heeled (I’m having foot pain in heels, which has totally shifted the shoes I can wear), a lightweight cotton sweater (good for my warm climate), a nude bra, a cardigan for a gift, and I am debating two other items. I placed several orders and returned a bunch. I’m am a pretty ruthless returner if I don’t like something. Yes, I spent too much time on it, but I think the NAS sale is kind of fun, and I like fall clothes the best of all seasons. I think my choices fit the life I am living today.

      I now have a wish list for fall/winter with 4 items on it, and two should be returning styles of items I’ve already been considering.

      • Debbie Roes says:

        I’m glad you decided to comment, Angela, as I’m sure that MANY readers of this blog shopped the sale. They probably hesitated to comment, too… It sounds like you didn’t buy too much overall. I think that returning is natural when we order things online, as things often don’t look like how we expect when we receive them. I have become a ruthless returner, too, and I think it’s a good thing overall.

        You seem to have a good attitude about the NAS and it’s great that what you bought fits your actual life. That was often not the case for me in the past. Your wish list seems quite reasonable and I wish you the best of luck with finding those 4 items.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      TexasAggieMom, thank you for being so open and honest about your NAS experience. It sounds a lot like what I went through last year. I didn’t end up with too much stuff really, but I spent a lot of time, energy and angst on the whole thing. You seem to have learned a lot from your experience, which will serve you well next year. It seems like the items you ended up with are very nice and serve your needs. The dress sounds fabulous and I found myself wondering if I missed out by not getting it (especially since we are close to being body doubles)! Yes, FOMO is real, even for recovering shopaholics 🙂 I think it’s great that you did better than in previous years and had some good insights that will help you in the future. I’m glad you aren’t being too hard on yourself. That never helps and often just hurts us. I used to beat myself up right back into the stores! Best wishes to you.

  23. I had never even heard of the NAS–till I read about it on blogs. I think bloggers get @ 7% of all purchases, so you can see the temptation for them.

    Luckily, I am extremely cheap, so don’t find the sale particularly enticing. I did get my son some underwear–my first and so far only NAS purchase!

    I did put some items on my “wish list.” Last year several of the items went on sale again after a month or so. That helped lessen my FOMO (a new acronym for me)

    Your progress is quite remarkable–so very impressive. Thanks for sharing your progress.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I really appreciate your kind words about my progress, frugalscholar. I do feel that I’ve come a long way and I can give myself a pat on the back for that. Congrats on doing so well with the NAS. Underwear for your son seems like something good to buy at the sale. I like your strategy of putting items on your “wish list” and then coming back to them. I’ve started to do that on various e-commerce sites in general. I often remove the items when I come back and review them later. In terms of the Nordstrom items, many of them DO go on sale again a few weeks later. Some things sell out, but most of what we need can be found somewhere (and at a good price) when we really need it.

  24. Yes, marketing strategies can get a bit ridiculous and tiring, especially if they’re everywhere; where I live we don’t get much nagging from sellers, apart from newsletters… I must admit that with the years I’ve come to completely ignore advertisements for sale season/sales in general. I know what I want and that stores are brimming with new wares 24/7, so I simply don’t need encouragements to shop ‘OMGrightNOWorFOMO4ever!!!’. I may not be what people call a ‘true minimalist’, I still enjoy some monthly shopping for something new, but I think I’ve finally found my equilibrium: I listen to my ‘needs’ and my wants, try to find some common ground between the two, and then do my purchases in all serenity. Of course it’s not all flowers and rainbows, I still get frustrated when I can’t find what I’m looking for (hello white not-see-through t-shirts and skirts, are you out there?), I still get the impulse buy from time to time (last was a baby-blue faux-leather jacket, which promised to be an hassle to style, but surprised me by pairing well with many pieces in my wardrobe, even black ones!), and when I find a bra that fits like a glove (which is quite difficult for me) I still have the temptation to buy 3 of them… But all in all I’m much more happy with my shopping these days! I think that listening to our true needs over the induced ones can really make a difference, and that’s what I’ve seen from this post, Debbie, so good job, and also funny analysis, the commentary on the slogans was spot-on!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I love this, Maria: ‘OMGrightNOWorFOMO4ever!!!’ That is the sense of urgency that is portrayed, isn’t it? Congrats on finding your equilibrium with shopping. That is what we are all looking for. I think most people have impulse buys from time to time. It’s only bad when it becomes the rule, as it used to be for me. I also get frustrated when I can’t find what I need. White t-shirts are the worst… I’m glad you liked this post and I appreciate your sharing your insights.

  25. I went into the NAS with an idea of what I wanted/”needed”. I added items to my wishlist during the early access period, to purchase once the sale opened to the public. I ended up keeping two pairs of jeans, two pairs of Zella leggings, a top, and a pair of red flats. And I was RUTHLESS about returning items.

    I finally decided to take the plunge on”designer denim” and purchased numerous brands, but ended up going with the fairly reasonably priced NYDJ brand for both pairs. Both are pairs are bootcut, but one pair is blue denim and the other pair grey. Combined with my current pair of skinnies, I’m now set in the “Jeans That Fit Properly” department.

    The leggings were purchased as Leggings as Pants leggings. They are significantly better quality than the JCrew and Old Navy leggings I had, and will be used for my more casual outfits and traveling.

    The red flats were something I had been looking for forever, as finding cute flats that can be comfortable for post-broken ankle is difficult. This pair fit all my qualifications, and were broken in straight out the box.

    The only non-planned purchase was a flowy top. I saw it on a blogger’s recap of items she bought, and really liked the pattern and shape. It’s different from all my other work tops, and it’s nice to have a top that isn’t a button down or a sleeveless shell that requires a cardigan. I’ve already worn it twice, so I know it was a good purchase in the end.

    I also noticed that a lot of bloggers promoted the NAS hard core, and it was really a turn off for me as well. Since many of the things they promoted were suitable for their lives, but not the average 9-5 office job, it was very easy to just delete their posts that popped up in my Feeder, without even reading it. I usually find that they are “obsessed” with everything, which makes me think that they really have no idea what to say about an item.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing your NAS experience, Melissa. Congrats on being ruthless about making returns. I have tried on a lot of designer denim, too, but I ended up liking the moderately priced Lucky jeans a lot better than the higher priced options. They fit my body well and come in longer lengths for my “giraffe legs.” Sounds like you got some good buys at the NAS. Even the non-planned purchase seems to be a smart one. I think it’s good that you deleted the blog posts that were promoting NAS. I just skimmed most of them myself, as I wasn’t too thrilled by the items they were featuring. Good point about them being “obsessed” with everything. I often feel their desire for affiliate income trumps their commitment to honesty. There are exceptions to that rule, but I mostly eye what bloggers have to say about products with some suspicion.

  26. There seems to be a whole culture about these quotes, and I see them in so many places. On Pinterest, blogs and instagram – sometimes even posted by shops or fashion brands to harvest likes (and people apparently love funny qoutes that justifies shopping). Image google shopping qoutes and you will see them all.

    It makes me feel so sad because it speaks volumes about how our culture views shopping. “It’s only fun” and “there’s always a reason to shop”. I used to work at a woman’s mag and have a blog and I became very aware how often people justify a purchase by getting other people’s approval. So to post encouring quotes like this in a shop where vulnerable people are already tuned into shopping is just appalling.

    It only added to my outrage after I saw the documentary The true cost. Shopping definately isn’t just entertainment for those who produce the clothes. And it’s not without costs for the environment and planet. The garment industry is the second most poluting industry in the world – only the oil industry pollutes more.

    So maybe “the more I find the better I feel” – but the same cannot be said for the garment workers and the environment!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Your points are excellent, Modedullen. I know there is a whole culture built up around glorifying shopping. Even the word “shopaholic” is usually used ironically instead of to describe a real problem that causes a lot of pain in peoples’ lives. I didn’t see that documentary yet, but I did read the book “Overdressed” which discusses a lot of the same issues. I think most people have no idea of the adverse consequences of the fashion industry. I didn’t know much at all until I read that book and I was horrified by it all. I hope that as more people become aware of the sad state of affairs that things will start to turn around.

  27. Debbie Roes says:

    I hope to reply to many of your amazing comments later, but I wanted to share some excellent insights from reader Jamieson who sent me an email in response to this post. Here’s what she had to say (she gave me permission to share her input and use her name):

    One thing that popped out to me was the color choice of yellow with black. Yellow can be a frenetic, anxious, nervous color, heightening excitement and adrenaline. The posters called to my mind traffic signs, conveying the need to be alert and take action. It also can come off as cheap, because of its obvious close-but-not-really association with gold. An interesting strategy to encourage buying!

  28. Amazing post and comments. I didn’t shop the NAS in-person until the second-to-last day, and I didn’t notice the signs, but they are appalling!

    I’ve returned to your blog because I can finally admit to myself that I have a shopping problem. I don’t think of it as an addiction, but rather a susceptibility–I’m less inclined to just decide on my own to go out shopping, but if I read blogs or forums where people are discussing shopping, it gives me the urge. So limiting my exposure to this type of peer pressure is going to be critical. One thing I wonder about with NAS is how much of the hyped items are genuinely wonderful and how much of that is sort of a groupthink where a few people seize on an item, people buy it because of that and start talking about it, and finally you see a critical mass of people talking about an item and figure it must be great if that many people have it. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but you see the same particular items over and over again in this sale every year and it makes me wonder how much of its popularity is attributable to the hype machine.

    I ended up buying one of those hyped items this year, the Zella leggings. I truly do have a use for a pair of leggings (I didn’t own any before) to work from home in in the colder months, something I’ll be comfortable in at home but that’s presentable enough to answer the door in, or throw on a pair of boots and a butt-covering coat and head out for a quick errand. But weirdly, I feel like kind of a sucker for buying them! And I’ve heard that a lot of the items in the NAS are made especially for the sale, to be sold at a discounted price–very much like items that are made specifically for outlet stores. So that also makes me wonder if I got first-quality leggings or a cheaper version, and even if I got first-quality (they do seem nice), just knowing about all these tricks and marketing manipulations gives me a gross feeling. Which maybe is a good thing, if it keeps me mostly out of danger!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Admitting you have a problem is a very important step, Anne. I used to play down my problem all the time, especially when I wasn’t in debt from my shopping. I would say it was no big deal, but it WAS adversely impacting my life. I still get the urge if I spend too much time reading fashion blogs or visiting those types of forums. Limiting exposure is helpful, especially when we are earlier in our recovery. I agree with you that some of the NAS items are over-hyped. The same items did seem to be promoted over and over again. I hope the leggings will work out for you. They could actually be really good even if they were hyped by so many bloggers. The marketing manipulations make me feel gross, too, but I think it’s helpful for us to be aware of the tactics that are being used. Forewarned is forearmed…

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