Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale Already a Mess for Influencers and Shoppers
Nordstrom’s relationship with influencers is so strong, a bunch of them were the guinea pigs when the retailer reopened for in-store shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, shoppers are accusing Nordstrom of giving these influencers preferential treatment during the brand’s annual Anniversary Sale—and influencers are stuck advertising products that are no longer in stock.
For the past week, influencers have been posting their spoils from the sale, which gradually opens to shoppers by tier depending on their Nordy Club (Nordstrom’s reward program) status. By the time the sale opened for all card members on Thursday, it appeared a significant amount of items were sold out, despite influencers still advertising them via affiliate swipe-ups on their Stories and Story Highlights.
In an interview with BuzzFeed prior to this year’s sale, Nordstrom clarified influencers’ participation in the sale. (Nordstrom did not immediately respond to my request for comment.)
“As with any affiliate program, influencers receive a monthly commission check for eligible sales generated by referring visitors to our site,” a Nordstrom spokesperson said. “Like any customer, digital influencers are able to shop during Early Access based on their Nordy Club status and being a qualified cardmember, and are not given preferential shopping access or products from Nordstrom.” However, it’s possible the influencer could have received a free item from one of Nordstrom’s brand partners, which they say does not come from their own inventory.
But customers are still blaming influencers for contributing to the dashed hopes of this year’s sale.
“Really disappointing that influencers share all these items for weeks and come sale day, everything is sold out,” one shopper wrote in the comments of Nordstrom’s recent Instagram post.
“As I look at the comments it seems everyone is sharing the same annoyance at [a] company they have loved for multiple decades too,” another comment reads. “I hope y’all really do re think how you treat your long term customers vs influencers who are shilling you folks.”
Meanwhile, influencers who bought, styled, and promoted the clothes already are now rifling through their purchases to find anything that’s still in-stock to post and earn affiliate money from.
“It’s crazy how much stuff is sold out this year,” blogger SimplyLaurenRose, who has 232,000 Instagram followers, said on her Instagram Story. “I don’t like the way that they did the sale.”
A situation like this is a loss for both parties, and influencers have just as much of a right to be frustrated as customers. The Nordstrom Sale is a capital-B Big Deal for online creators (BuzzFeed called it “the Super Bowl of swipe-ups”). They likely rely on a certain amount of income from their participation in the promotion of the sale, but Nordstrom’s apparent failure to anticipate what items would be popular this year means influencers don’t make any affiliate money from them because their audience can’t purchase sold-out items.
Some have tried other methods: Daryl-Ann Denner, who has over 572,000 Instagram followers, posted her usual recommendations on Instagram Stories along with swipe-up links, but also something you wouldn’t expect: a swipe-up link to a product she absolutely hated.
“DO NOT BUY THIS CARDIGAN,” she wrote over a photo of herself wearing a long, beige sweater. “It looks and feels like crap.”
She then provided a swipe-up link so her followers “know what NOT to buy,” but there’s perhaps another reason as well: depending on how often they clear the cookies in their browser, if followers swipe up on the cardigan but end up clicking from there to something else in the sale that they ultimately buy, the browser cache could still pick up that they got there from Denner’s swipe-up, earning her affiliate money while avoiding the frustration of advertising a sold-out product.
But customers may be too far gone. On Reddit, frustrated shoppers have banded together to share alternatives that avoid influencers and Nordstrom all together.
“A lot of the brands sold at Nordstrom (not the in-house brands) run pretty decent sales that match the Nordstrom prices,” Rguinn93 wrote. “It’s less common with the new merch, but you can find some scores on staples (for example the true & co bras are the same price direct from the company). Madewell also runs a pretty great sale. It might be worth checking out especially as full access opens up.”
The Nordstrom Anniversary sale opens up to everyone on August 19—that is, if there’s anything even left to shop.