An M&M hands out treats to my Elmo and others at Coach

I took my 6-year-old vampire and 2-year-old Elmo to the mall trick-or-treat this afternoon because A) Not even massive quantities of Skittles and Three Musketeers could have powered me through another four hours of answering, “Not until the sun sets” when asked every five minutes, “Is it time to go trick or treating?” B) I don’t like to be cold. And C) I thought perhaps I might steal a few minutes to browse for a new sweater.

As Halloween spending continues to rise – $5.8 billion by this year’s estimates – shopping centers and main street shopping districts have figured out how to play up their status at the modern day town center, giving us a place to show off our little Batmans and princesses before nightfall. I was at Southdale Center, which did a fine job of creating a party atmosphere with crafts in center court, giveaways for kids and train rides (albeit, $3 a pop). But as we left the Aveda store with nothing more than a Starburst, I couldn’t help but think most retailers did not make the most of this animated crowd – a crowd that included many who surely would not have been shopping today, were it not for the desire to find a temperature controlled place to celebrate; a crowd that included many who would gladly have been shopping, were they not chaperoning Harry Potter or Mini Mouse.

It’s not that I’m trying to pick on Aveda, but for a retailer that frequently boasts about its free tea and mini massages, why not serve up a little slice of that bliss to the handlers of the little monsters? How about tossing us a sample size lotion, the scent of which would have lasted long after the sugar high faded? Likewise, Bath & Body Works missed a chance to slip shoppers a lip balm or scented hand sanitizer. The Children’s Place skipped Halloween, as did Abercrombie, which plays like a bad attitude for stores that clothe the trick-or-treating set. Macy’s did nothing, which was sadly expected. But the non-player that really got me: Godiva. A chocolate shop – boycotting the mall trick or treat? As if I would consider shelling out $10 for two of their “Halloween chocolates” when they didn’t even care enough to give kids a little taste? Meanwhile, Cinnabon, which also earns its keep selling treats gave away mini cupcakes and Ben & Jerry’s and the smoothie bar had chocolates at the ready.

The one store that really seemed to make the most of the occasion: The Limited, which handed out mini chocolates wrapped with orange paper that said “Sweet Treat – A Gift from the Limited (Unwrap to see yours).” Inside the wrapper was a coupon for 25 percent off – good through tomorrow.  So sweet. So simple. So useful – especially considering I never did get time today to look for that sweater. Now I know where to go first when I return to the mall.

The months of squeezing through tables heaped with jeans and hunting down the floating kids store are over: Gap will open its new Mall of America store on Saturday, Oct. 30. Gap and GapKids are together in one two-level storefront on the south side of the mall (GapBaby and Maternity have a separate spot). To celebrate, Gap at MOA is offering 30 percent off storewide on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., get a Bare Escentuals mini makeunder and a free professional photo shoot. A live DJ will entertain.

When an adorable jacket turns out to be delightfully affordable, good chance it’s Tulle. I’ve been a fan of this contemporary brand for years – the quality and design are superior to what you’d expect to find from the usual fast fashion outlets and the price seals the deal: $68 for this dress; $80 for the faux-leather bomber jacket. You’ll find them both – and much, much more at Karma on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, which just received it’s largest Tulle shipment ever. Hurry!

Despite our growing waistlines, the majority of fashion designers resist expanding their collections to plus sizes, which seems dumb. New Twin Cities-based designer Adrienne Yancy agrees. She’s debuting her first plus size collection under her Ariel Simone label tonight at the Bold Beautiful Curvy fashion show at BMW of Minnetonka (ticket info here). “I’ve always done plus sizes,” says Yancy, a 24-year-old graduate of the fashion merchandising program at Howard University. “Women come to me with unique body types – small waist, large hips, and so on. They can’t find clothes, so I make them. It’s a very ignored market. This is just my first plus size collection.” After tonight’s show, Ariel Simone plus size – along with the full collection including ready to wear and swim – will be for sale on Sizes up to 22; most pieces priced from $55 to $120. Says Yancy, “I’m okay being the only designer doing this.”

Got to love a trick or treating route that includes boutique shopping. Several downtown areas, stores and malls are putting on Halloween events this weekend. Here are some highlights:

Saturday, Oct. 30

Pumpkin Days at 50th & France: Trick-or-treating, balloon art, cake walk, horse drawn trolley rides, pin the face on the pumpkin, costume contest, and fire truck tours by Lund’s.  Enjoy warm drinks compliments of Caribou Coffee.  Trick-or-treating from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and all other activities from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

The Wayzata Boo Blast: Costume contest, trick-or-treating, trolley rides, sales and store activities, including make your own trick-or-treat bag at Creative Kidstuff. Noon to 4 p.m.

Great Pumpkin Fest at Shops at West End: Scavenger hunt, bouncy castle, carnival games, trick-or-treating, free trick-or-treat bags for first 300 kids (12 and under) in costume. 11 to 1 p.m.

Linden Hills Hay Day: Trick-or-treating, photos, face painting, and stores sales. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Kiddywampus hosts a Halloween party: games, crafts, story time and more. Free; Reservations required. 2 to 4 p.m.

VState Clothing, Atmosfere, Club Sota and Ttwo are making sure your Halloween is fashionable with a party, costume contest and music by Bryan Gerrard. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Suburban World Theater, 3022, Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Halloween, Sunday, Oct. 31

Get your little goblin to Creative Kidstuff for free face painting. All locations.

Most of the major malls offer trick-or-treating, children’s activities and costume contests, including Mall of America, Rosedale, Maplewood and Southdale.

For Halloween sales and shopping events, click here.

Retailers aren’t the only ones hoping to cash in on Black Friday this holiday shopping season. A friend just forwarded me an email from the Plymouth, Minn. Pump It Up (The inflatable party zone!) offering a Black Friday Drop n’Shop Event. For $25, the kids can bounce around for four hours in giant inflatables while you bounce from sale to sale. Factor that into those early bird specials.

Parc Boutique and Belle Reve opened around the same time on East Hennepin Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis – before the bottom fell out of the economy. Belle Reve was flashier, designer focused and all about the fab dress and killer heels while Parc Boutique offered the more reasonably priced ruffly tops and cool jeans you knew you’d wear a thousand times. Belle Reve is gone. Parc Boutique is expanding and will reopen this week in Belle Reve’s larger space at 320 E. Hennepin.

I was sad to see Belle Reve go, but the truth is, I never bought anything there. It was out of my league for every day wear and just not the place I (or apparently most women) thought to shop for special occasion pieces. Meanwhile, Parc owner Thao Bui – in her sweet, understated way – has listened to the marketplace and responded successfully. Her customer wants the latest fashions with a point of view and the accessories to make it all pop – but on a budget. The new jewelry lines she’s picking up: Vintage City Classics, KR Designs, DeVintage jewelry and others, are all priced under $75. As are most of the clothes from new lines Minkpink and Kensie. Parc Boutique is also adding local designers Kjurek Couture and Amanda Christine for cost-conscious couture. For men, basics from Alternative Apparel will be complimented by an influx of belts, watches and jewelry – easy ways for the hipster to update without breaking the bank.

It’s nice to see a young retailer evolve and succeed. It’s reassuring to know that what shoppers want (or perhaps need) does count.

Details on Parc Boutique’s re-opening can be found at

It’s not that I write about wedding industry designers because they send such pretty pictures, but it sure is a nice bonus:

Apiary Design

Penny Larson

Nelle Handbags

The sharp images are enough to make a girl want to get married…or at least shop like a bride. The designers pictured, and four others are putting on a Meet & Greet today – much more intimate, and so much cooler than the usual bridal fair. And no coast to mingle with this stylish group and soak up their chicness. Click here for event details.

Uber Outlet scored a major shipment of fine menswear from clubby luxury brand House of Carrington. Enough so that the former store turned pop-up retailer has decided to return to regular hours through the December – open every Wednesday evening, 5 to 8 and Thursday-Saturday, 10 to 5. Men’s pants, originally priced as high as $325 are down to $89.95 – with two for one specials. Ladies, just wait – the outlet is planning a Black Friday sale that will include deals on women’s cashmere, too. Uber Outlet is at 6015 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis.

Had the chance to catch up with environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo today at ShopNBC headquarters in Eden Prairie as he hawked his new eco beauty line Wholearth for the network’s first Beauty Day (to gab for one solid hour about 12 bath and products is quite an impressive feat). Last I saw Danny in the Twin Cities, he was pitching earth-friendly Simmons mattresses and organic bedding at JC Penney. Yet I can’t think of any other human brand as earnest and admirable as Danny. Whether it’s pillows or perfume, everything Danny does starts with the environment and sustainability and eliminating toxins from our lives. He isn’t pitching green because it sells; he’s living green and creating products to support it – with style. Wholearth is no exception, plus it’s USDA certified natural and organic. Danny’s motto is “do just one thing.” Of course, he does 20 or 30 – at the same time – but if using his hand cream counts, I’m in.