Sorry, mommies-to-be: You’ll have to wait until the bun is out of the oven to shop Hot Mama. The Edina-based chain is getting out of the maternity apparel business.
Maternity has always been a smaller part of the business in comparison to women’s contemporary fashion. But in the past five years, maternity dropped from 20 to 10 percent of company sales, says Hot Mama CFO/Chairman Mike Tamte. Meanwhile, non-maternity grew an impressive 40 percent annually during that same period. When Hot Mama quietly removed maternity from some stores last summer, sales actually surged, Tamte says. ”We were able to add faster-moving non-maternity apparel.”
Spring maternity is in stores now, but no orders were placed for fall. Hot Mama is consolidating what remains of maternity apparel – in the Twin Cities, you’ll still find a good assortment at the Edina, Maple Grove, St. Paul and Roseville locations as well as online.
Despite the store name, this decision is a return to Hot Mama’s roots, Tamte points out. When his wife Megan Tamte opened the first store in Edina six years ago, there was no maternity section (that confused me at first, I recall). “Only when we saw a lot of bellies walk through the door did we decide to bring in contemporary maternity lines,” Tamte says.
So what happened to all those bellies? I’m already hearing the desperate cries of pregnant women who feel like they have no boutiques to shop. Strikes me as being a bit like retail’s petite problem: Women complain about a lack of options, but tend not to buy what’s available. Hot Mama has noticed many pregnant women wearing non-maternity apparel as long as possible.
“There are very few maternity boutiques in the Twin Cities, and the nation, for that matter,” Tamte acknowledged. “We debated whether to keep maternity in one or two stores in each city, but decided that would be too confusing to the customer. There is plenty of maternity business for an independent maternity boutique, though.”
There’s your invitation, aspiring store owners. Meanwhile, Hot Mama will focus on what follows those nine short months of fashion challenges: Motherhood. Says Tamte, “The vast majority of our customers understand Hot Mama as a contemporary clothing store for moms who want to look and feel hot.”
Hot Mama currently has 19 stores in seven states with three under construction and plans for another 18 in the next two years.
Elmo and the gang have gone eco! Just spotted Sesame Street Envirosax reusable bags at Fleurish, which has a fantastic new storefront on Lake Street in Wayzata. The bags – lightweight, durable and compact – sell for $10 each and will be perfect for hauling my little monsters’ gear (they don’t go anywhere with out 10 books, stuffed animals, snacks and yo-yos). You can also buy a set of them here for $39.95 – makes a darling gift.
Speaking of gifts, Fleurish has plenty of clever ideas for end-of-the-year teacher gifts, like chic reusable lunch bags, cute totes, polka dot water bottles, and many other smart ideas for $20 to $30. Fleurish, 701 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-476-2296
Creative Kidstuff stores will unveil a new department Tuesday, May 24 that goes beyond toys. Booster is aimed at the rest of the family – teens, parents, even grandparents – with a mix of function and fun at a variety of price points. Official tagline: “Booster – An ever evolving collection of tools and treasures to amp up everyday life.” The theme will change every 60 days. First up: Country Fair Flair. You’ll find pick-n-pack soda pop, aprons, hammocks and mason jars with illuminated tops. Creative Kidstuff has been scouring markets around the world for months to bring in fresh ideas.
Italian luxury brand Missoni is Target’s next designer partner. Missoni for Target will feature apparel for women, men, girls and baby as well as home goods including bedding, dinnerware, stationery and decor. Prices will range from $2.99 to $599.99, with most items below $40. Look for Missoni at Target Sept. 13 to Oct. 22.
I’ve learned to temper my excitement about Target’s fashion designer partnerships – the clothes rarely live up to the fantastic advertising photos, and even if they do look great for the price in person, the sizes are generally geared toward 12 year olds. Nevertheless, I can’t help but be anxious to shop Calypso St. Barth for Target, launching this Sunday, May 1. Of course, the sundresses look adorable in pictures. But I’m even more optimistic about the swim coverups, the summery fashion accessories, the clothes for little girls, and the decorative pillows, tableware and other home goods – all in Calypso’s signature turquoise and coral prints. Perfectly timed. I think this is going to be a good one. Even Target insiders, who often get jaded about their own designer collaborations sound really pleased about the limited edition collection, in stores through June 11.
I love a store that feeds my kid. Regular nosh stops include Len Druskin, StyledLife and Hot Mama. No pressure to those already so generous, but Melly at the Galleria has truly upped the ante with a treat perfectly fitting its Palm Beach aesthetic. Behold: Lilly Pulitzer animal crackers. Currently a gift with purchase.
Faff off, Cinderella. Little girls have a real princess to play with now. Introducing William & Kate Paper Dolls, available at Creative Kidstuff for $9.99. The set comes with seven outfits for both groom and bride, including Kate’s sapphire engagement dress. Wedding attire will be available for download once it is revealed on April 29. And so, the royal nuptials will be perfect on paper.
Pacifier invites customers to participate in Tea Collection’s Spring Tea Stylista Project for kids ages 8 to 12. The staff at Pacifier, the Northeast Minneapolis kids boutique, will help kids get accessorized and then snap a few pictures to submit to Tea for the opportunity to win a two-night trip for two to San Francisco, including airfare, hotel, a $200 Visa gift card and an opportunity to participate in a photo shoot at the Tea studio.
The contest runs from March 26 to April 3. Three finalists will be posted on Tea’s Facebook page the week of May 7 and the finalist will be announced around May 17.
The week of the contest, March 26 to April 3, Pacifier will offer 10 percent off all Tea apparel for infants and children.
Photographer phenom Liz Banfield shoots weddings around the country and has a beautiful book to show for it, called, fittingly, Weddings. But when she’s not capturing brides, she’s often photographing kids – for Target ads, Real Simple magazine and other commercial and editorial clients. A mom herself, Liz has recently been blogging about child modeling, since so many parents think they want to get their children into it. Not me. I just wanted a few good pictures of my boys, ages 6 and almost 3, that did not involve an elbow in the lens. Liz invited us to her South Minneapolis studio to offer some pointers:
Capture the energy rather than attempting to stifle it. Rather than sitting the boys on the sofa, Liz told them to jump over it (years of training down the drain in seconds). The resulting smiles were better than anything you’d get by saying “cheese.”
Get on their level. Literally – get down and get right in their faces. And mentally – the second Liz broke into potty humor, she became a hero to my giggling boys.
Coordinate clothes, but don’t match. Solid colors generally photograph best, especially in vivid hues – Liz preferred a cobalt blue over navy.
Turn off the auto flash. Natural light always looks better
Press the shutter down half way and wait for your moment. Kids move fast, and you want to avoid the typical delay associated with digital cameras.
Lucky for me, pictures don’t actually speak a thousand words. Watch what happened when the video camera was rolling. Really makes you appreciate Liz’s talent. (I promised we wouldn’t return until it’s time for graduation pics):
Naartjie Kids will open its first Midwest store at Mall of America in April. I know that will make some online shoppers happy. Naartjie is known for its playful, kid-friendly fashions: Mix and match prints, vibrant colors, natural fabrics, and a soft, casual feel. Bonus for parents: Affordable pricing. The brand was started in the ’90s by a mother of three boys in Cape Town, South Africa who wanted an alternative to the basics that dominated the market at the time. Naartjie (pronounced nar chee) is an Afrikaans word for a “small, sweet citrus fruit” found in Africa. Naartjie Kids is now an international brand with stores in 30 countries, producing 11 collections a year that include clothes, accessories, and footwear for ages newborn through 10 years old.
Stay tuned: This is the first of at least a half dozen new store announcements coming from Mall of America this spring. I’m told the list consists of several stores new to the market – including luxury and European brands.
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