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May 28, 2008

Personal shoppers at Anthropologie

And as I examined myself in a pair of cropped pants in the fitting room mirror at Anthropologie, I thought, if only I had "a best friend and confidant available...for exceptional support, insight and a little fun."
Talk about your full service specialty chain. Anthropologie is taking a cue from department stores, introducing a free personal shopping service at many locations nationwide, including the 50th and France store. Call for an appointment - I'm told the personal shoppers can assist on both the fashion and home sides of the store, with anything from a wardrobe update to freshening up a room to top-to-bottom makeovers. The press release promises a whole lot, including the personal shopper pledge to "keep a record of clients’ sizes and interests, so they can alert them when something they might like first arrives." Sounds like  the stuff any good retail sales associate should be doing, but at least Anthropologie recognizes the need to enhance service. This is a great opportunity for women who get overwhelmed by Anthropologie's selection (there's always more merchandise under the tables), and for women who crave a fresh alternative but always assumed the store was too whimsical or too young (both my mom and I are huge fans, but rarely do we walk out with the same items). Again, like the personal shopping service provided at better department stores, this program is free. You've got nothing to lose. Except maybe your old best friend and confidant.

May 26, 2008

Get your Sigg

Siggforkids_2 This whole plastic scare has aluminum Sigg water bottles flying off shelves - as I reported in my weekly "cool product alert" on the Pioneer Press' new Minnmoms.com site. But there are many places around town to find the stylish, safe and environmentally friendly bottles. Just this week, I've spotted them at the new Corepower Yoga & Spa, Twin Cities Green and for the adorable Sigg bottles for kids, try Bebe Babble or Creative Kidstuff.
Bebe Babble and Pacifier are also hot spots for BPA-free plastic baby bottles - but boy, are they pricey. (Go to Peapods for glass bottles.) I'm surprised Target, in all of its trendiness, has yet to jump on the bandwagon with some new line of eco-friendly bottles. Bet that's soon to come.
For more environmentally conscious shopping in the Twin Cities, click here.

Between toddler and teen

Customers want more from Siji Kids and the store is starting to deliver. Larger sizes, up to 16, are already arriving for both girls and boys. As more baby boutiques have sprung up around town, there continues to be a dearth of options for bigger kids. And even if they do burn holes in their pants and grow like weeds, occasionally, you want to shop somewhere other than Old Navy.

May 20, 2008

Get ready for BCBG

The wait is finally over - BCBG will open at the Galleria on Thursday, May 22. That's actually about a week ahead of schedule - so get in quick before everyone else figures it out! BCBG has shops within some Macy's stores in town, and an outlet in Albertville, but this is the first company store to grace the Twin Cities.

May 15, 2008

Outlet coup

Uberoutlet The Uber Outlet promised bargains from some of the Twin Cities' most exclusive shops, and it is starting to deliver. Owner Lynne Gonsior told me this morning that Galleria designer boutique Arafina and cool, contemporary clothing store Ivy (both women and men's) are sending sale merchandise to the outlet. The first arrivals land on Tuesday, May 20. Also coming next week: premium jeans from Hudson, Serfontaine, Joe's and  True  Religion. Race ya!

May 13, 2008

SATC in the TC

Satcativy Next thing you know, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda will be hawking dish washing detergent. From beauty products to workout gear to, of course, shoes, every brand wants their product associated with the "Sex and the City" movie. I'd say I'm receiving around five SATC product pitches a day - and often, the connection is as remote as, these gloves are made of leather - just like the ones Carrie wears in the movie! I'm irritated already...but still, I confess, I'm excited to see the movie. A couple of local retailers are doing their part to capitalize on the fervor. Ivy at Calhoun Square is selling SATC t-shirts with sayings like "Looking for Mr. Big" and "I'm a Carrie." (Can't help thinking: would Carrie ever be caught in something like that?). They sell for $40 to $44. Drama at Gaviidae Common is hosting "An Evening with Sex and the City," including a screening of the film, cocktails, store gift certificates and gift bag. The event takes place Saturday, May 31. Tickets can be purchased by sending $25 via paypal to [email protected] Or call 612-338-9423 for more details. Cheers. 

May 12, 2008

Clutch closing

Can't say it's a surprise.
Clutch Boutique at 50th and France will close at the end of the month. The polished handbags that not enough women could justify at full price are now 30 percent off. Owner Lori Cheadle said she simply reached the breaking point. Holiday sales were underwhelming and the last four months have been slow, which she attributes, in part, to bad weather. But long before the holidays and the dreary spring, there was an obvious sign of trouble: no customers. Almost every time I passed the boutique, it was empty.
And that was not for lack of publicity. I wrote about Clutch several times because when it opened, it was the only boutique in town specializing in high-end handbags from little-known, up and coming lines. I'm always thrilled when an independent retailer raises the bar for Twin Cities shopping. Unfortunately, this one raised it a bit too high. I never made a purchase at Clutch. I can't afford $500 or $600 for a bag.
And yet, a lot of shoppers apparently can. Survey after survey shows that women will invest hundreds in handbags - just look at the shelves at Nordstrom and Neimans and Coach, which seems like a veritable bargain, compared to the $2,000 designer bags celebs carry. Expensive bags do sell. So why didn't they sell at Clutch?
Cheadle thought we were ready to go a step beyond Coach and Louis Vuitton - to spend on a bag that wasn't covered in designer logos, that wasn't the same bag everyone else was carrying. She underestimated the importance shoppers place on big name brands, but I think she also sold herself short by remaining so focused on really, really expensive bags instead of diversifying a bit. She's got a great eye - I've got to think she could have found a couple of lines in the $100-$200 range, which would have inspired me to browse more often. But it's more than that. Compare Clutch to StyledLife, which hits the same prices and sells some of the same brands. The store experience is night and day. Clutch looked lovely, but felt a bit empty and quiet. At StyledLife, happy music is always pumping (and for sale a the music bar). Owner Kevin Quinn and his employees are eager to assist. The store feels more three dimensional, with table after table of things to touch. So when a shopper realizes the bags are almost all beyond budget, she can console herself with a belt, a cuff bracelet, a scarf.
Finding that perfect balance to make merchandising magic is no easy feat. It's sad to see Clutch go.
Of course, it's always on to the next store. And at 50th, that will be Ladyslipper Boutique, opening Aug. 1 in the former Spirit Kids, 4940 France Ave. Owned by the stylish duo behind Bluebird Boutique, which successfully sells pricey bags and shoes, the new accessories shop will expand on their casual, contemporary look with Frye boots, Dolce Vita and Botkier bags, cool watches, jewelry and more. The owners, who just returned from a buying trip, plan to keep prices under $400.
Let's hope they stick to that.

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