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Ali Shops Blog

Archive for November, 2010

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Cyber Monday

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Push that project off until tomorrow – Cyber Monday is more than a gimmick. The occasion invented a few years ago to extend the Black Friday shopping rush even when consumers went back to work after the holiday weekend is proving its muscle this year. Visit for an overview of deals everywhere from Toys ‘R Us to Lands End. And, simply go to your inbox. If you’ve ever given a retailer your info – purposely or inadvertently – you’re likely to have some offers waiting for you today and many will be legit. Free shipping continues to be the default offer, but some get much better: 20% off from American Eagle, 35% off from Kitsel, $10 off $25 from Origins, $50 off gifts from one of my favorite modern design sites, Chiasso – plus free shipping from all. Happy cyber shopping!

Receiving Oprah’s Favorite Things

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

I’ve often rationalized, it’s probably for the best that I haven’t won a new home or a free cruise, because as wonderful as it would be gifted something huge and unexpected, I’m not inclined to jumping up and down or to public displays of crying. Neither is Angela Reeves of Minnetonka, but she tells me she surprised herself by “shedding a few tears” when she found out she was in the audience of the final  “Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things” show (well, the first of two final shows, anyway.) Reeves and her husband Fred weren’t the only Minnesotans there – Faith’s Lodge founder Susan Lacek was in the lucky audience as well – my pal Jason DeRusha had the scoop: click here.

Angela called in to Shop Girls on Saturday to tell us about her surreal experience on the show. (Listen here). After writing Oprah about her husband, Fred Reeves, founder of Street Therapy Interactive to help troubled teens, the two were invited to the show – with just a week’s notice. “I just wanted to see Oprah. It’s her last year,” Angela said. Okay, there was this little idea in the back of her head – given the time of year, and the bits of confetti she saw fall on a chair on stage before the show, but then a producer said the show wouldn’t air until next summer, and anyway, who would dare think it..until…it happened! “People were hugging and high fiving and a couple of people did fall on the floor,” Angela said. My husband didn’t understand the concept of what we were going to receive.” And receive they have – the 53-inch flat screen TV arrived over the weekend. Some smaller items, like books and cookware, guests lined up for and took with them after the show. For bigger ticket items, or ones that required sizing, coupons were given out that could be redeemed online. Oh, and Oprah did pay the taxes on everyone’s gifts. “She was so funny, so down to earth,” Angela said. “It was amazing.”

Apt to use apps on Black Friday?

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

I got out of doing the “talking to crazy shoppers who line up outside stores at 3 a.m. on Black Friday” story this year. Been there, done that. And frankly, with stores opening as early as 10 p.m. – or even remaining open all day on Thanksgiving – it’s become commonplace. (Get Black Friday shopping tips here.) What I’ll be watching instead is how technology plays into shopping strategy. Will shoppers be tweeting their best finds? Will they look up Facebook coupons from stores or log into Foursquare for discounts or send angry messages to retailers that run out of advertised doorbusters? Will they make use of the myriad shopping apps coming out just in time for the Superbowl of shopping? Best Buy, for example, is hyping two mobile apps for the holidays:

Shopkick: This free smartphone app detects “shopkick Signal” technology at select Best Buy stores (Target and other retailers participate, too). The customer instantly receives rewards called “kickbucks,” which can be accrued over time, then redeemed in the store or converted into store gift certificates. Customers can also provide the mobile number connected to their account at the cash register for personalized discounts.

Tecca: Curates product information, pricing and expert reviews to help consumers understand new technology, compare products, functions and prices. Simply scan a barcode and the app recognizes the product. Available for iPhone and Android as well as Web browsers.

Just two examples of how retailers are trying to incorporate social technology into the shopping experience. Will you use it?

Smart & Chic Black Friday (and beyond)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Want the opposite of waiting in line in the dead of night for 30 percent off a coffee maker at a big box store? Smart & Chic Beauty Lounge opens Black Friday in Northeast Minneapolis, 20 University Ave. N.E. (across from Surdyk’s). Smart & Chic will offer all the finishing touches: hair styling, blowouts, extensions, makeup application and lessons, eyelash extensions and manicures. Perfect for bachelorette parties, or a night on the town with friends. (Book appointments online.) The Smart & Chic (literally) boutique will feature hip lines like Malin + Goetz, Jouer CosmeticsTokyo Milk and Np2 Nail Polish. Plus, hair pieces and accessories by local designer Bethany Lorelle, Nelle Handbags and others.

Founder Julie Swenson is building on what she started closer to the river, in the Cooper neighborhood. She and her team have been a go-to for weddings and special events for years, but the new space is sure to make them a destination and make us prettier. Now that’s smart!

Eileen Fisher at Galleria

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Eileen Fisher opens its first stand-alone store in the Twin Cities today at the Galleria in Edina. And if you haven’t shopped the better women’s brand in a while, you might be surprised: Long associated with flowing styles and easy fits, the holiday collection includes fitted styles, luxe scarves and the must have of the season: sequins.

Where to buy Denkosekka

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

I hear shoppers are having trouble getting their hands on Denkosekka, one of the hot new toys mentioned in the St. Paul Pioneer Press article I wrote last week. assures me Toys ‘R Us stores will have the magnetic yo-yo “battle” game in stock in early December, but it’s so new that many locations have yet to receive their shipment. Hang tight, or order online now at

And while we’re on the subject of toys, the toy coupons that Target sent out several weeks ago expire Nov. 24, so don’t wait until Black Friday! Target launches a four-day sale on Sunday (Nov. 21) featuring many toys, games and videos that will not be on sale Black Friday.

But not that Denkosekka.

Holiday Ideas House

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Bachman’s Holiday Ideas House opens today. The historic family home at 5936 Lyndale Ave. S. in Minneapolis, adjacent to the Bachman’s store, is made over seasonally to inspire decorating ideas. Themes for holiday decorating and entertaining:

  • Give the porch a soothing and relaxing look for winter with birch and simple, natural elements.
  • This is the time of year to go formal in the dining room: traditional dinner setting, vintage silver serving pieces and for a festive touch, poinsettia dinnerware.
  • Get the house dressed up for New Year’s Eve with silver touches and blue-green accents
  • Re-purpose a sun room as a cocktail and bar area
  • Pull out the peppermint and holly dinnerware for cookie-making
  • Fancy yourself Candy Spelling by turning a spare room into a neat and pretty gift wrapping space…at least for the season.

Bachman’s Ideas House is open today through Sunday, Dec. 12 (closed Mondays). Tickets are $5 with 20 percent of proceeds benefiting Children’s Home Society and Family Services. Visitors will receive a coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase at Bachman’s. Order tickets online, call 612-861-7311 or buy at the store.

Bat those lashes

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

The Twin Cities first dedicated eyelash bar, Jett Makeup, celebrates its grand opening Thursday evening with free makeup and lash applications from 6 to 9 p.m. Take advantage! I’m still figuring out the whole false eyelash process. Jett owner Amy Presson offered these tips and insights:

  • For a night on the town, try a simple strip lash. Prices start at $20.
  • For more lasting false eyelashes, there’s silk or mink, which can be worn, taken off and reapplied 20 to 25 times. (Presson says Madonna and J. Lo like these for the red carpet.) They cost $120 to $195, which includes reapplication. (It takes just a few minutes).
  • You don’t need mascara with false eyelashes. You can wear eyeliner, but probably won’t need that either.
  • Then there’s semi-permanent lashes. They are applied, about 100 per eye, to natural lashes with professional grade adhesive and shed gradually. Monthly fills are recommended.
  • Avoid oil-based makeup removers when wearing false eyelashes of any kind. Try a water-based formula with a Q-tip.

Not for the newspaper

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Writing this week about the many indie holiday shopping events coming up in the Twin Cities (see listings here). So many places to soak up the season without battling the throngs at the mall, and so many ways to support local artisans and independent companies making cool, often one-of-a-kind, edgy items. Many will be on display this weekend at the MNfashion Holiday Bazaar. Like, um, these, from Maybe You Should Die:

You won’t see them pictured in the St. Paul Pioneer Press this Sunday…but know that it’s not just pretty jewelry at these crafty events.

The new look-at-me! please! Microsoft store

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Microsoft’s biggest mistake is trying to go head to head with Apple at the malls. Plopped between, say, Ann Taylor and Gymboree, the new Microsoft Store would simply dazzle – it’s modern, flashy and incredibly interactive. But across the corridor from Apple at Mall of America (first floor, south side), comparisons are inevitable.

Standing in the middle of the extremely loud new Microsoft store, the sixth nationwide, I felt a bit like I’d landed at a frat party where the hosts need to be noticed to feel validated. People jumping around, too noisy to connect. I looked across at Apple – the cool campus coffee house filled with intriguing people who make you want to linger and do great things. Apple was also busy, but much calmer. Geniuses in blue, some with mohawks and piercings, waited at the door and hovered over sleek white and black machines, enlightening customers.

I had trouble figuring out who worked at Microsoft. The ones in green? Blue? Red – no wait, that guy was just a shopper. There’s just a lot going on. A lot. Which is a criticism, in comparison to the elegantly simple Apple. But compared instead to Best Buy, or the electronics department of Target or Wal-Mart, the new Microsoft store is a rock star. Phones are projected on super-sized wall screens. Xbox gaming stations are sprinkled throughout the store. Products are neatly grouped, making it easy to zero in on small laptops, phones, electronic readers or other devices. (For product pros and cons, read my colleague Julio Ojeda-Zapata’s blog.) There’s a service bar (not quite Genius, but looks helpful).

For the person who wants an overview of the latest in technology, presented by knowledgeable staff, the new Microsoft store is the place to go. And should you realize, midway, that you’re more the coffee bar type, Microsoft has once again made it easy to get there instead.

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