Anniversary Sale: My Pre-Sale Picks

Jul 16, 2021

Every year, I write two posts about the Anniversary Sale: one on cardholder opening day and one on public opening day.

As a lifelong Nordstrom shopper, I look forward to these posts all year, but this year is different.

In preparation for this post, I tore through the entire catalog and saved the items that I was interested in sharing.  Incredibly, it was 54 pieces — double last year’s number.  I was pleased to see so many items that I was excited about sharing and buying.

There’s just one problem: 18 of them (including seven of the eight pieces I planned to buy myself) are already sold out.  (And items are continuing to sell out as I write this post at 2:00AM PST.)

Frankly, it’s so upsetting to open up a sale 12 days before it opens to the public and see ‘sold out’ written on 1/3 of the items you were interested in.  I used to call the public opening day post ‘The Best of What’s Left,’ but this post might as well have the same title.  Creating three tiers of early entry may have pleased the handful of influencers and cardholders who spent five-figures, but it leaves the majority of shoppers out in the cold.

I’m so frustrated by Nordstrom’s decision-making that this will be my last year promoting the Anniversary Sale. So let’s go out with a bang, shall we?

I tried to focus on clothing that works for the office.  I also tried to stick to items that were under-$200.  There were so many things in the sale that had high ticket prices.  (But I suppose that’s not a surprise given who had early access.)  So here we go.


This is where the sale starts.  These items will sell out first.  So snap up what you want, and come back for the clothes.  They restock the clothing with returns.  Once beauty sells, it’s sold.

Laura Mercier’s Caviar Eyeshadow Pencils are great for a quick eye look.  The colors are richly pigmented, they’re easy to apply, and they don’t run in the heat.

Facial steaming is a great way to hydrate and detox skin.  It opens up pores so that serums and treatments penetrate.  And if you struggle with acne, this will open your pores to give you a deeper clean.  This Dennis Gross facial steamer is a good buy.  I’m also considering this electric mask and serum set to improve collagen production.

Tom Ford makeup is not cheap, even on sale, but their eyebrow pencil is one of my favorites.

Other products in the beauty sale that are worth a look include:

Kiehl’s Creme de Corps Body Lotion // Clinique Clarifying Toner // Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Eyeshadow Set // Revitalash Eyebrow Conditioner // Brigeo Health Hair Wonders Set // Drybar Double-Short Brush Set


This Cinq a Sept Rose Sweater has a cool appliqué accent.  It’s a great piece that would look nice with denim or with black trousers.

This Open-Front Blazer from Halogen has a ruched sleeve and a sleek cut.  It’s a nice blazer for casual wear.  It would also jazz up a simple dress.

This chunky sweater from Treasure & Bond is the only piece in my personal wishlist still available.  I love the textured details.  The weight looks perfect for fall/winter.  And it looks substantial enough to wear to work on professional days.

If you’re looking for a sweater, I also love the knitted-design on this Vince sweater.  And if you’re on the hunt for a cool jacket, BlankNYC’s faux leather jacket is always a good look.

Looking for other work appropriate pieces?  Let’s start with the dresses.

This Tahari Asymmetrical Knot Dress looks like a great dress to throw on for work.  It gives you the feel of a basic with a little something extra.  I love this teal a-line dress from Eliza J and this boldly printed dress from Maggy London (both are professional for work, fun enough for anytime).

If you have any summer weddings or fall events coming up, I would snap up this rust-colored Halogen dress ASAP.  The color, the textured fabric and cut give it a Johanna Ortiz look that can’t be beat for under-$70.

Looking for shirts for business casual or professional offices?  I adore the heart print on this Zadig & Voltaire shirt that creates whimsy for work.  This silk shirt from Nordstrom also comes in some fantastic colors.


The footwear selection this year was decidedly casual, but let’s talk about the best of what was available.  This Franco Sarto ankle boot has cool details that stand out in a sea of boring boots.  If you need boots for fall, I recommend these.

The relaxed style of these Hill Snake-Embossed flats make them a good choice for a business casual office.  They’ll look great with jeans.

I’ve been looking for a pair of combat boots for a while so that I can relive my teenage years.  This Izzie boot from Marc Fisher has fabulous detail and a cool texture.  I think it would look great with faux-leather leggings and a sweater.

Other shoes that caught my eye?  These Schutz braided sandals are perfect for summer weddings.  The block heel makes it a good choice for walking on grass.

For work, I would have a look at these Veronica Beard sock booties.  I own a similar pair from Stuart Weitzman, and they look amazing with dresses and tights in the winter.


These Gucci sunglasses are sublime.  I love the details on the arms, the oversized style, and the rosy-brown lenses.  For a more affordable style, try this pair from Rag & Bone.

Several of the jewelry pieces I flagged are already gone, but this mother-of-pearl Gorjana necklace is very chic and still available.  These Madewell double-link earrings give you that two-tone look in a modern package.

For a bit of a splurge, I adore this Poppy Finch pearl necklace.  It’s so beautiful.

As for bags, I didn’t see any that I made me swoon.  But I did snap up this Briggs & Riley suitcase in olive green.  A friend has one and it survived being dropped from a third floor window, so it’s definitely built to last.

If you’re looking for a casual bag, this cotton Dagne Dover tote has lots of pockets and a cool style.  I would carry it to the beach, on the plane, or to work and school.  It’s a unique basic.

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  1. AB says:

    I so wholeheartedly agree with your reaction to the sale and (as always) appreciate your integrity. Hopefully they will figure this out before the next one and you won’t have to quit it. It’s very hard to imagine their plan to create frenzied demand among us cardholder/general public peasants for…Bombas socks?…that we see on ambassador influencers is really going to pan out. All it’s doing is making me want to shop elsewhere.

  2. Liz says:

    Thanks so much for posting about this! I have become increasingly frustrated with the sale as well. In addition to almost everything I planned to buy being sold out, I also reached out to Nordstrom last week to ask if I could still shop the sale early as a cardholder if I didn’t plan to pay with my Nordstrom card. I was assured that would be fine, however when I went to place my order this morning, it wouldn’t let me check out unless I used my Nordstrom credit card.

    I gave up–there are other places to shop!

  3. Rachel C says:

    I don’t have a Nordstrom credit card, so I’ve basically accepted that the sale is no longer for me. I’ve shopped and loved it for years but I didn’t even waste my time with pre-sale browsing this year. I’m the past, sure, I’ve missed out on the hot items but there was always plenty to get once it was opened to the public. Now? What’s the point in even trying? It’s time for them to either rename the sale or reevaluate how it works.

    • Kaitlyn says:

      So I have an “influencer” status, and I don’t consider myself to be an influencer. I buy the family’s Christmas gifts (we don’t have kids – I’m talking my in-laws and my side) on Nordstrom with the card, and my husband’s clothes/gifts. I also have a very old-school formal job, so I have suits and dresses.

      All of this adds up apparently to an Influencer status. Just pointing out that with a little loyalty and building a wardrobe for every-day life, it’s not impossible to get a higher tier.

      It’s Nordstrom’s loyalty program. Makes sense to reward loyalty.

      • Belle says:

        I get rewarding loyalty, but the year after a pandemic, when we all cut back on shopping seems like a bad time for launch. For me it’s extra upsetting on the back of years of pushing #NSale like it was the cure for cancer.

        • Kaitlyn says:

          At the end of the day Nordstrom is a corporation. They’re not out for charity.

          However, what I’m hearing is the need for more tiers, or at the very least, more stock. Or they could hold some stock back and release more as the sale goes on. Lots of options here.

          • Belle says:

            People have been asking for hold back stock for years, they’re not going to do it. I don’t expect them to ‘run a charity,’ but I feel like a lot of these choices are designed to generate buzz about the sale, and buzz is only valuable if your customers feel like they had a good experience and it encourages them to shop more.

          • Jenn S. says:

            How is, “make sure you have enough product to meet a good enough chunk of demand so that you don’t alienate a ton of people,” charity, exactly?

            The point of a promotion (i.e., Anniversary Sale) is to drive sales. Your ability to do so is going to be hindered if you don’t actually have product to sell. Then your promotion is pointless and you’ll harm your business and reputation.

      • Chelsea says:

        It’s $5,000 at Nordie’s, in a single year. As Belle (and Kevin McAllister) would say, “woof”

      • JEnn S. says:

        Five grand of spending to reach that tier in time for the sale is still a large budget for a LOT of individuals or families between gifts for parents and in-laws and wardrobes for two people in a year. That isn’t just building an every day wardrobe for most people.

        No sass or disrespect for your means or shopping choices, but it is legitimately disappointing to the many thousands of other people who might still spend significant sums either during the sale or throughout the year.

      • MARY says:

        I also have influencer status. It doesn’t get you early access to the sale, so I’m not sure what point you were trying to make.

        • MARY says:

          Oh I guess I should clarify that I have influencer status but am not a cardholder. So it’s useless in my case 🙂

  4. Sharyn says:

    So disappointing! On the other hand, I only spent $40 (replenishing my underwear drawer). You’d think this situation wouldn’t be great for the “influencers” either because no one can buy anything through their links because other influencers bought it all up. Next year I won’t waste my time going through the sale beforehand. Will just check day of and see if there’s anything I want. C’est la vie. But two thumbs down, Nordstrom.

    • Belle says:

      In the post, I was referring to influencers who were invited to pre-sales, who store managers offered special perks to shop early so they could promote items their followers, as you pointed out, can now not buy.

      But influencer is also a cardmember status level, as Kaitlyn pointed out, so it’s confusing.

  5. Tricia says:

    You never disappoint! Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together. I really look forward to it each year.

  6. Rachel says:

    Not much. Brands that typically participate were absent. I bought my 5 year old some adidas pants and shorts and got a Boll and Branch throw blanket. I can’t remember a time I didnt try and pick up a pair of cole haan shoes, but alas, nothing this year.

  7. kate says:

    Agree with every word! There was not one single clothing item in my wishlist that was available in my size – or even near my size – for purchase today. I replaced some beauty items and bought the boots you promoted on the blog. meh!

    • Colleen says:

      In past years I’ve noticed that AS items on my wishlist will often pop back into stock. And usually by October some of it ends up being even less than what is was for the AS. Once I figured that out, this sale has lost some of its urgency.

  8. Madeline says:

    The things I really wanted sold out before my tier so instead of buying the other things I also wanted, I’m just skipping altogether out of principle. This model isn’t holding up and I hope they change it. Or really, there are so many stores out there I’ll just go to Bloomingdales or Saks or Neiman where they don’t play these kinds of games and hope my fellow shoppers follow suit. I understand rewarding loyalty but this is a bit ridiculous. Sephora has managed to tier their customers without excluding the masses. Come on, Nordstrom.

    • Belle says:

      Agreed. The Sephora model works well. They open it up to Rouge, but there’s still plenty of stock left when it opens to the VIBs.

  9. Cindy says:

    I would love to know from someone at Nordstrom what the deal is. Is this unavailability of items planned or unplanned? The sale as structured now certainly doesn’t work. Influencers are promoting items that no one else will ever be able to buy. Those of us with lower tiers of access are completely alienated. This happened last year, so I didn’t even look at the sale this year, I was so disgusted.

  10. caitlin f says:

    I’ve had some of the particularly “hot” items popping in and out of stock for me… maybe as the influencer types who bought stuff for the sake of a large haul post start returning items they’ll come back?

    Also… I kind of relish not being part of the vanguard because I get to see reviews! Some of the “hot” items too are rapidly restocking because turns out the item sucks in person, haha.

    I don’t know. I’ll try to shop the sale for a handful of items but I’m not going to go crazy over not getting a sweater or boot when every other retailer will have dozens of sweaters and boots available in a matter of weeks.

  11. Emily says:

    I whole heartedly agree with everything you wrote and the frustrations expressed by other commenters. Additionally, even when I do think I am successful getting my order in, many times Nordstrom later cancels the order when they realize they do not have the stock their website claims to have! Further, today I received my order only to find out that Nordstrom sent me the wrong item. Of course it is now sold out and I am out of luck. I just do not think this sale is meant to be for me… every year it is a problem and they only seem to be compounding.

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