In 2018, Caitlin Covington, a fashion-focused influencer who has over a million followers on Instagram, told Adweek that the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is the “Super Bowl of blogging.”
“You prepare for it all year,” she said.
But like many other events, this year, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale will look a bit different: Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Nordstrom has postponed the sale, without a rescheduled date, and has suspended orders overall, multiple outlets reported.
A representative for Nordstrom did not respond to Adweek’s request for comment.
The sale, which sees the department store discount brand-new fall merchandise for a few weeks at the end of July and into August, has become a major moneymaking event for the influencer industry, particularly in the fashion space.
“I usually do better during the two and a half weeks of the anniversary sale than I do for Black Friday,” said Jessica Camerata, who runs the fashion and lifestyle blog My Style Vita. “I think that speaks mountains of how big it is and how much volume is done during that sale.”
For many influencers, their entire year is planned around the sale—and their annual income is dependent on it. But with the sale being postponed until an unknown date, that leaves many who were (quite literally) banking on it in a state of even greater uncertainty than they were already dealing with.
Though some reports of Covid-19’s impact on the influencer industry have been overblown, there’s no denying that it, like so many other industries, has taken a hit. Brand partnerships in certain sectors (particularly fashion) are on the decline. And without staple events to rely on like the Nordstrom sale, income is even more uncertain.
Unlike many other events during the coronavirus pandemic, the sale is not canceled, but rather, postponed. But the timing is integral to the sale’s value, both for consumers and influencers. For consumers, it’s a chance to snag new-t0-shelves fall merchandise at a temporary discount. And Camerata said that for influencers, the end of summer months can be an otherwise slow time for bloggers. The Nordstrom sale provides a much-welcomed boost.
If the sale runs during a different time, the language that influencers have often used to encourage shopping the sale must change; the allure of buying fall merchandise ahead of the season will be gone if the sale happens in, say, October.
“I do think it’s gonna have an adverse effect on our industry,” said Alexandra Carreno Haines, founder of the website Adored by Alex. “A lot of people are going to have to change tactics and perhaps start thinking in a different way, [promoting] investment pieces or items that you can’t live without that will be in your closet for seasons to come.”
The Nordstrom sale became the major event it is because of years of consumer loyalty to the brand—both Carreno Haines and Camerata said they have fond memories of shopping the sale with their mothers as children. And because of that loyalty, even if another retailer attempts a similar sale this summer, it likely won’t be the revenue driver that the Nordstrom sale is. As Camerata said, “I can’t imagine a store swooping in, replicating it and doing it better.”
There’s also a chance that when the sale is rescheduled, the brick-and-mortar retail landscape will look different than its traditional state. If stores are open, they may be limiting the number of customers, making 45-minute long dressing room sessions—used to try on a slew of items and showcase them for followers on Instagram—unrealistic. And that’s if the store is open at all.
“This might be a really big eye-opener for people who have been relying on doing try-on hauls in fitting rooms,” said Camerata. “That’s not going to cut it this year, you may not even be allowed to be in the store at that point.”
For some influencers, it’s going to be a tough lesson in income diversification.
“A lot of people make a lot of their money just in that month alone,” said Camerata. “It’s going to be a big eye-opener that you cannot just rely on one revenue source, one retailer, one sale or even one social media platform to help make all of your money.”
And in a time in history that’s become synonymous with uncertainty, the postponement of Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale perhaps acts as a further reminder: In the time of Covid-19, even what once seemed the surest of bets isn’t safe.
“This entire pandemic has totally changed our industry,” said Carreno Haines. “I don’t know if it’s for worse or for better. Only time will tell.”