Off-price stores on the rise, BYU students don’t complain

Courtney Odom models her Michael Kors jacket that she found at Nordstrom Rack, a popular off-price store. (Courtney Odom)
Courtney Odom models the Michael Kors jacket she bought at Nordstrom Rack, a popular off-price store. (Courtney Odom)



Off-price stores like T.J. Maxx and Nordstrom Rack have made huge growth over the last year, and many BYU students are happy about the lower-priced options.

TJX Companies, the parent corporation behind T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods, reported a steady sales rise in 2016. Nordstrom opened several new Rack stores, but no new original department stores and revealed that Nordstrom Rack stores account for 40 percent of the company’s total sales.

J.Crew, Urban Outfitters and Macy’s all reported low revenue for the same year, with Macy’s even announcing the closure of several stores. The demand for off-price stores is growing, and outlet based companies are proving to be tough competition for big retailers.

Orem Nordstrom Rack manager Brynne Orton said the elite customer service found at high-end department stores is less enchanting for today’s shoppers. She said customers are more interested in being able to choose items for themselves and on their own time. The thrill of hunting for and finding a great bargain is part of what drives the attraction to off-price stores, according to Orton.

“Honestly, you can find very, very similar stuff at Nordstrom,” Orton said. “I can find the same things here as I can at Nordstrom, but you just get a little extra service at Nordstrom. I think more people are willing to go out and shop for themselves now and are looking for those better deals.”

BYU dance and Russian major Courtney Odom said she thinks being able to get trusted brands at decent prices is attractive for BYU students aiming to be stylish on a tight budget.

“I think that people who are most interested in fashion and being in style are people from anywhere around 16 to 30,” Odom said. “Those are also people who don’t make the most money right now, and so I think they want to look fashionable for a good price.”

Odom said shopping at off-price and outlet stores also allows students to maintain and build brand loyalty without having to pay full price for different labels. She said she can’t afford the full price of one of her favorite designers, so being able to find the label for something she can afford is exciting.

“I love Michael Kors, but it’s so expensive, so I never buy anything that’s full price,” Odom said. “My Michael Kors jacket is actually from Nordstrom Rack, which was a lot cheaper.”

Other students also agree they have favorite brands they look for in off-price or outlet stores since they don’t normally have the budget for the regular department store prices. BYU nursing student Katie Christensen said she has some favorite labels she’s always trying to get good discounts on.

“I pretty much get all my clothes at the J.Crew outlet and the LOFT outlet,” Christensen said. “The attraction is that it’s cheaper. People see it as really similar to the regular thing, but it’s cheaper.”

Some customers wonder if they’re getting the same quality of items at an off-price store as at the regular department store, but Orton said in her experience, there is “no real difference.”

Christensen said the availability of cheap clothing makes students less willing to pay full price if they know they can get a good deal. There is a limit to how much people in the area are willing to pay, though, Orton said.

“We have to notice what’s doing well here,” Orton said. “Slightly cheaper brands do really well, but big designer brands aren’t very popular.”

Odom said she feels like she’s getting what she expects from the different brands. In the end, paying full price for an item that shoppers can find with a little bit of searching at an off-price store isn’t worth the extra money to students like Odom.

“It’s totally about finding a deal,” Odom said. “When other stores like Nordstrom Rack come out with all these options at a good price that are a lot cheaper? I would definitely shop there over any regular Nordstrom store.”

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