The operating rules of enormous department store chains have changed a lot in the past decade. Once relegated to the suburbs, outlet and clearance divisions have inched ever closer to major full-line shopping neighborhoods, with the latest example being a great big Nordstrom Rack store set to open in about a month at 855 Sixth Avenue at 31st Street, just a few blocks south of Macy's Herald Square and the sprawling collection of mall-stores that spill across the stretch of 34th street west of Fifth Avenue.
A glance at the windows pictured above tells us that the store will open its doors in about a month on October 26th, and if it looks like it will be pretty big with the entirety of the first two floors of the new building, consider that with the lower level as well, the store will total about 47,000 square feet over three floors. That makes it one of the larger Rack stores around, especially in a location like Manhattan where space is always at a premium.
It has been decades since a major out of town retailer has attempted to crack Manhattan's powerhouse ranks of home-grown retail palaces, but as once sterling names like Gimbel's, Bonwit Teller, B.Altman and Abraham & Straus have fallen over the years, there's a little more room for more competition now. JCPenney of Plano TX, has only managed to get in with an innocuous subterranean location taking up a mere fraction of the building that once housed the entirety of the mighty Gimbel's, but the pride and joy of Dallas, Neiman Marcus, is on its way with an unconventional store in a yet to be completed Hudson Yards tower. The big event on deck, however is Nordstrom's Columbus Circle flagship slated for 2019. The chain has managed to slyly whet New Yorkers' appetites first by taking on the suburbs surrounding the tri-state area where it is now a mainstay. Next, it made Manhattan safe for Department Stores' outlet divisions by opening a Rack unit where the Union Square Virgin Megastore once stood, paving the way for a Saks Off 5th appearing on tony East 57th Street, a once unthinkable location for such an establishment, only seven blocks north of its lavish full-price namesake. Before the splashy Nordstrom flagship debuts, however, its 3-level Men's Store will serve as an extended preview when it opens across Broadway this coming Spring. By the time the Mother ship opens its doors, Manhattanites should be chomping at the bit as if it is one of our own illustrious chains. As for the upcoming Rack, its sheer size suggests that it will be just like the Rack stores we have come to know, but bigger, which outlet shoppers know, is almost always better. By now we all know that most of what these stores carry is either overstock or merchandise made expressly for selling in "outlet" venues. That doesn't mean that they aren't worth your shopping dollars, and Nordstrom Rack at least makes the effort to specially tag items that have indeed come from their full-line stores. It's never a bad idea to catch the opening weeks of such a store either, as off-price chains have been known to pepper their opening offerings with particularly enticingly priced merchandise to ingratiate themselves with new customers. If you happen to have a reason to make your way through the Herald and Greely Square neighborhoods in about a month, you might find yourself making a habit of it.