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Ali Shops Blog

Archive for December, 2008

After Christmas at the mall

Friday, December 26th, 2008

By 10 a.m., I'd been to Kohl's, Rosedale Center, Cost Plus World Market, Patina, Bibelot (there was a line on Grand Ave.!) and Eco-tique. Total purchases: one book, not on sale; one gift set of Caribou coffee, 50 percent off; one pack of gift tags, 50 percent off; a bottle of Torani syrup (I like my almond steamers), for the amazing price of $4.19 and a string of light-up dreidels, 75 percent off at World Market (love that place!). The $99 portable DVD player at Kohl's gave me pause, but I pushed on since my true agenda was to see what others were buying for the Pioneer Press article I now need to write. Overall findings: the stores were busy, but not crazy, and the discounts are a bit steeper than they were before Christmas.
For more sale info, click Sales/Specials.

Post Christmas sales pre-Christmas

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

You don't have to wonder where the best deals will be on Dec. 26. Many retailers are already posting them online Ann Taylor, Brookstone, Eddie Bauer and Gymboree are among those jumping into post-Christmas mode.Ikea will have a big post-Christmas sale in stores only, but you can preview the discounts now. For an up-to-date list of after-Christmas deals at chain stores that will start before Christmas, visit And for sales at Twin Cities boutiques, click's Sales/Specials.

Uber Baby responds

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

I know the owners of Uber Baby were hurt by my Dec. 19 blog entry and I feel bad about that – I have nothing but respect for Dan and Lynne Gonsior. They are the kind of local retailers the Twin Cities need: always willing to take a risk, always ready with a fresh idea. Which makes it that much tougher to be critical, but it's my job to be honest and unbiased. I try to approach every shopping experience as the shopperthat I am and as a shopper, I've found myself disappointed by Uber Baby lately. The Gonsiors say business at the Galleria has dictated many of the changes customers have noticed. They offer some interesting behind-the-scenes insights. The store owner's job is not an easy one – especially these days. As I said in my original entry, I wish them the best and look forward to more great things from Uber Baby next year.


Here are a few of our comments regarding your blog dated December 19, 2008.

The poor customer service you received at our store has already been addressed and we do apologize, poor service is not acceptable..
The mom and stroller traffic that you mentioned is mainly in the morning and very few if any are there to shop.
When speaking about the merchants at the mall to support our concept, we were mostly speaking about stores that support a demo of 25y.o-45y.o.
Mall traffic in the evenings is non existent. Management will tell you traffic is up over last year and we believe that is due to Crate & Barrel.  What we see are people using the separate entrance to Crate's store and leaving right after visiting that store.
When we first moved in the Galleria wanted maternity only. We discovered not enough customers are willing to support a high-end maternity boutique. We do very well  with maternity at our outlet store.  We have decided being able to give our customers a great deal on maternity the focus will be at the outlet in that category.
We opened Über Baby Galleria in what was part of Expecting Uber Baby. Not the Über Baby look or feel. We decided this fall, that the Galleria was not the right fit for Über Baby, daily and evening traffic was almost non existent and our main demographics were not shopping this mall.
We decided to limit our fall inventory given the poor sales and traffic at the Galleria. 
We acknowledge that the store does not have the exact same feel as our original store.  We are very excited to move on and go back to what made Uber Baby so successful.
So for now we are going to open a smaller Über Baby express store within our outlet. We will be opening a new 2000-3000 s.f. flagship store in the fall of 2009. 
These comments come from 15 months of daily observations and feedback from other merchants and customers. 
– Dan & Lynne Gonsior, Founders of Über Baby.

Post-Christmas wakeup call

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

The consummate picture of Dec. 26 at Twin Cities boutiques is a line of shoppers shivering outside Bibelot, waiting as long as three hours for the opportunity to buy gift wrap at 50 percent off. I'm wondering if they're going to bother setting the alarm this year. Bibelot has already run sales on holiday items and more…and so has the rest of the retail world. Still, local shops are going to try to entice us: Karma and Flirt are holding their post-Christmas sale together (and handing out numbers at 9 a.m. should any diehards decide to arrive early). Key North will continue the holiday trend of serving drinks (hot rum) to shoppers. JC Penney is opening earlier than ever: 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 26 – with twice as many doorbusters as last year. Still, they're worried that's not incentive enough. So JC Penney is offering wake-up calls. Sign up at Ask nicely, and they'll probably come over and put the toothpaste on the toothbrush for you as well

Why go to the store without going online?

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I didn't have to hope Lowes would have the drapery rod I wanted – I checked the stock at local stores before venturing out. I then bought it online so I could breeze into the store and pick it up at the customer service desk without having to wait in a cashier's line. What a fantastic way to shop, and it's becoming more common. Home Depot's website also lets you check inventory at specific stores and order online for in-store pick-up at no additional charge. JC Penney has added a local inventory check as well. And electronics stores like Best Buy were some of the first to venture into ordering online and picking up at the store. I was raving about the service this week to Deloitte retail analyst Brad Fritz, who assured me that retailers realize this is the efficient way to shop. Take advantage!

Uber Baby leaving Galleria

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Uber Baby is leaving the Galleria after Christmas and heading back to its original location at 60th and Lyndale in South Minneapolis, where it will now share space with the Uber Outlet. Owner Lynne Gonsior told me she's been disappointed with the traffic at Galleria and said "unfortunately, besides Len Druskin, there really were not stores to support our demographics."
I find that surprising. Galleria is teeming with strollers and upwardly mobile parents and grandparents. What about A Pea in the Pod, Oh Baby! (which, by the way, is getting set to move to a much larger space aross from BCBG), Creative Kidstuff, Pottery Barn Kids, Oilily? What about those lovely nursing rooms with the comfy rocking chairs that make this the mall of choice for many new mothers?
Look, traffic is off all over. But I have to think that the troubles Uber Baby is having at Galleria have something to do with they way the store has shifted its focus from better children's clothing and modern gear to gifts. Honestly, I had a tough time spending a $50 gift card at the store today – there's just not much to buy. We're past the newborn onesises with the funny sayings and there were literally just a handful of tops and pants, none of which were in my boys' sizes. And Expecting Uber Baby, which was originally going to have its own space at the Galleria and then got folded into Uber Baby, has been whittled down to little more than maternity workout gear, lingerie and baby bags.
Worried about hanging on to my gift card to long, as we've been programmed to think this holiday season, I eventually spent it on shoes – the store does have some cute ones. My 4-year-old flipped for these so-ugly-they're-cute Dinosoles hightops with a 3D dinosaur on the side that lights up. Good thing I recently had his feet sized at Nordstrom: when I asked the sales associate to check the fit, she declined and said she didn't know any more than I did. Not really what a customer wants to hear.
Uber Baby will reopen at 6021 Lyndale Ave. S. on Jan. 12. I hope it's an opportunity to get back to the fresh merchandising that made this boutique a draw in the first place.

Give them scotch, and will they shop?

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Guys, are you shopping tonight? Stores seem to think you'll show up if they ply you with beer and scotch. Is it true? StyledLife has a men's shopping night going on this evening, and so does The Grand Hand Gallery (GH will do it again on the 22nd). Stella in Stillwater will do a men's night Friday evening. They've got booze (warning: shopping while drinking can be dangerous for the bank account), shopping assistants, gift wrap and StyledLife will even turn its flat screens to ESPN (who knew they went there!). We know women love event shopping – primarily for the multi-tasking of being able to socialize and knock items of their never-ending to do list. I'll be curious to know if men go for it as well.

Gap binging

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

The coupons are working. I've shopped Gap more in the past few weeks than the past year. I do find the current collection of sweaters, scarves and basics more appealing than the past several rounds of merchandise, but the real draw: constant discount offers at the stores, in the mail and in my in-box. Just picked up two scarves, regularly $30 to $40 for $10 apiece. In my car are three Gap sweaters, all marked down, plus I had an extra 10 percent off voucher (could have bumped that up to 25 percent if I'd signed up for a Gap credit card). Even as I paid, I found myself thinking: these will probably be marked down further next week. Decided I'd evaluate at home and most likely, will return one or two. I'm expecting to bump into my friend Kirsten at the return desk. "I have found myself buying things because they are cheap, but when I get home, I feel like, 'Do I really need another sweater from the Gap?" Spending might be down, but returns are expect to reach an all time high this holiday season as buyer's remorse gets the best of us. Are you feeling it?

True Religion

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

The True Religion store is now open at Mall of America – first floor, south side near Gap and the Lucky Brand denim store. What these company stores offer is access to the full collection and the newest arrivals. The True Religion shop is inviting – more Aspen than L.A. with a woodsy vibe. Beyond jeans, there are a limited number of tops and fur-trimmed puffer coats. I liked the purple cords and the assortment of casual boots. But what I really want to know is who will spend $128 to outfit their toddler in True Religion jeans?? (That's half the price of their adult jeans, but by my estimate, less than half the fabric – at least in my size.)

Party dresses!

Monday, December 15th, 2008

If you're shopping for that perfect, glitzy holiday party dress, hightail it over to T.J. Maxx at Knollwood Center in St. Louis Park (by far the Twin Cities' best T.J. Maxx for designer apparel and handbags). Just to the left of the entrance, in the "runway" department, you'll find a great selection of Alice + Olivia dresses – black with silver studs, gold sequins, and more. They're still not cheap, but within the realm of reason (especially if your calendar is full) at around $199. I also could easily have bought a couple of Alice + Olivia sweaters and some pieces from Theory.
And while you're there, check out the toy section for some great buys. I've paid as much as $16 for the Baby Buzzer I like to give as a newborn gift. T.J. Maxx had it for $6.99! | Mpls.St.Paul Magazine © 2008 MSP Communications, Inc. All rights reserved