We went shopping at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s to see which was a better department store, and the winner was clear

Some of the in-store displays at Nordstrom were completely over-the-top, like a Lancôme fish tank.

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Some of the in-store displays at Nordstrom were completely over-the-top, like a Lancôme fish tank.
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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

  • Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s are both high-end department stores that sell everything luxury.
  • Department stores as a whole have suffered in recent years because of declining foot traffic to malls, higher demand for off-price products, and the rise of e-commerce.
  • Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s are both combating these issues by focusing on e-commerce and their off-price outlets, but it’s unclear what the future holds for department stores.

Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s sell everything luxury all in one spot. Designer jewelry, clothes, cosmetics, and home decor are artfully displayed in these massive stores.

But department stores are no longer in their heyday. The rise of e-commerce, declining foot traffic to malls, and a higher demand for off-price products have caused department stores to suffer. Many department-store chains, including Sears, Macy’s, and JCPenney, are closing locations across the country as they struggle to adapt to shoppers’ changing habits.

Both Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s have been trying to combat the decline of department stores as a retail model by revamping their e-commerce strategies and offering perks like free returns and in-store pickup of online orders.

Nordstrom also has been shifting focus to Nordstrom Rack, its off-price store chain. But even with a store dedicated to discounts, there were still a few sale racks at Nordstrom’s full-price store during a recent visit. Macy’s-owned Bloomingdale’s also has an off-price outlet store to help feed the demand for discounts and deals, though nearly everything we saw during a recent visit to the full-price store was on sale, often up to 40% off.

We visited the two department stores in Westchester, New York, and found that even though Bloomingdale’s seems to emphasize its store experience more, Nordstrom was ultimately more pleasant to shop at. Take a look inside:


The first department store I visited was Nordstrom, an anchor store at The Westchester Mall.

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In the entryway was a small lounge area with comfortable leather chairs and art hanging on the walls.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Immediately on the first floor were the massive shoe department and the men’s department. Each of the departments took up half of the floor. The shoe department carried brands like Nike, Converse, and Vans alongside brands like Gucci and Prada.

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The men’s department seemed to carry an endless selection of formal wear from brands like Ted Baker London and Bonobos.

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There was also a Topman shop within Nordstrom, which sold more casual clothes.

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There were a few sale racks throughout the department, but there were more full-priced items than sale items.

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Also on the first floor was a small luggage section …

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… tons of designer handbags on display …

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… and all different kinds of accessories like hats, scarves, and sunglasses. Almost everything in the store was in pristine condition — the floors were spotless, and the displays were all perfectly put together.

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Cosmetics from brands like Anastasia Beverly Hills, Marc Jacobs, and other prestige brands were all displayed on the first floor.

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Some of the cosmetics displays were over-the-top. The Lancôme counter, for example, had a huge fish tank as part of the display.

Some of the in-store displays at Nordstrom were completely over-the-top, like a Lancôme fish tank.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The second floor was similar to the first. The entire floor was women’s clothing, including a Topshop-branded section similar to the one downstairs. It also carried Brandy Melville, Theory, Rebecca Taylor, and Free People, among other brands and designers.

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About half of the displays in this part of the store had sale signs. Even at 40% off, most products still cost well above $100.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Some of the displays were gorgeous, with sparkling marble floors and small sculptures on display above the clothing racks.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The dressing rooms on each floor had their own lounges with huge couches, fine art on the walls, and fashion magazines laid out to flip through.

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Areas like this were set up all over the store. It felt like a place that you could spend time at, rather than just buy what you need and leave. The employees were very laid-back and didn’t seem to mind people just hanging out in the store.

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Scattered throughout the department store were signs advertising free order pickup for online orders. In addition to in-store pickup, Nordstrom also offers free shipping and returns, same-day delivery, and curbside pickup. On its website, Nordstrom explains it handles returns on a case-by-case basis.

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On the third floor were more women’s clothes …

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… a huge children’s department …

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… home decor …

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… and candy from Sugarfina and Dylan’s Candy Bar.

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Also on the third floor was a cafe serving wine, beer, coffee, tea, desserts, and appetizers.

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I exited the store on the third floor and had to navigate through the mall to find my way to the entrance. The store was absolutely giant and felt like a maze. It was overwhelming, but overall the store was spotless and had beautiful displays, friendly employees, and a ton of different brands to choose from.

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Next I went to the Bloomingdale’s store about a half mile down the road. It wasn’t part of the mall, and it towered over the attached parking lot.

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I walked directly into the cosmetics section. There was a lot more to take in than at Nordstrom, and it smelled overwhelmingly of perfume.

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All of the jewelry was kept behind glass, with accessories lining the back wall of the room.

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Most accessories were on sale.

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Bloomingdale’s sold many of the same brands and products as Nordstrom.

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The men’s department on the first floor was divided into branded displays, like Tommy Hilfiger, Vineyard Vines, and Polo Ralph Lauren.

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Sale signs were everywhere in this part of the store.

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There were also a lot of signs advertising a July 4th promotion, which offered additional discounts on sale and clearance items. There definitely seemed to be a lot more sales here than at Nordstrom.

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Like at Nordstrom, there was a mix of brands like Adidas and New Balance as well as more luxury brands.

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The women’s shoe department was on the opposite end of the men’s, and it had many more styles and brands to offer than the men’s section.

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Across from the women’s shoes was a full Louis Vuitton store within Bloomingdale’s.

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A lot of the displays throughout the store were pretty extravagant.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

On the second floor was the women’s department, which sold most of the same brands as Nordstrom. The displays were pretty similar as well.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It was definitely messier than Nordstrom had been.

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The formal dresses at Nordstrom were elegantly displayed on mannequins, but the dresses at Bloomingdale’s were cluttered and crammed onto a few racks. Everything was on sale.

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The fitting rooms also were much more cramped than at Nordstrom.

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Bloomingdale’s offers in-store pickup for online orders and free returns. The return policy at Bloomingdale’s is also, for the most part, case by case, and products must be returned within a year.

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There were a few things that Bloomingdale’s had in store that Nordstrom didn’t, such as a registry section …

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… a room full of rugs …

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… bath products, mattresses, and other home products …

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… and a massive kitchen department. Even though Nordstrom didn’t carry these products in store, it has a comparable selection online.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even though Bloomingdale’s had more in the store, the online selections were comparable, and Nordstrom had more features like curbside pickup and free shipping. Nordstrom also was a nicer atmosphere to shop in, as it was cleaner and much better organized.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler