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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

That’s JCP, Thank You

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Just when it seemed there wasn’t a new idea in retail, J.C. Penney laid out an ambitious plan to overhaul its stores and brand. Some highlights:

- Fewer sales, lower prices. J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson confirmed what we already know: Very little department store merchandise, like 2 percent, sells at full price. So rather than go through the motions of pricing it high only to put it on clearance, J.C. Penney will price most merchandise 30 percent lower to start, with month promotions on select goods.

- Shops within the store. You know it: J.C. Penney is blah. Following its success with Sephora shops within JC Penney, the entire floor will be gradually reconfigured into mini shops.

- Monthly themes more in line with our lives rather than the retail calendar. So January might be about “renewal,” as WWD reported, with special merchandise to support the theme. (Can’t wait to see if they can really resist breaking out the Christmas decor the day after Halloween).

- Ellen DeGeneres as the new spokeswoman in ads.

- New brands, like Nanette Lepore creating a juniors dress and sportswear line called  l’amour nanette lepore.

- Every brand makeover requires a P. Diddy move: J.C. Penney wants be known as JCP. The initials were revealed today on new red, white and blue logos.

It would be nice to think the stores can really evolve as dramatically as Johnson, a retail visionary credited with major change at Target and Apple,  as dramatically as described. At the very least, J.C. Penney-er, JCP-has retailers talking about (and no doubt defending) promotional pricing and in a meaningful way.

This is going to be fun to watch.

MN p.s.: J.C. Penney was my first guess at a replacement for Bloomingdale’s at MOA. Industry response to that theory was tepid…but with today’s news, I can’t help but think what a perfect place MOA would be to unveil a completely reinvented JCP. Say 90,000 square feet or so?

RIP, Charla Krupp

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Charla Krupp–magazine editor, best selling author and champion of women making the most of their assets (and least of their flaws)–was the very first subject of the “Shopping with…” column I wrote for seven years in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. At the time, she was editing the smart, but short-lived ShopETC. magazine and was in Minneapolis for an appearance at Marshall Field’s. I picked her up at the downtown store and set out to show her that Minneapolis had some decent shopping. She was a terrific sport: poking around Bibelot in Northeast, sipping tea at Intelligent Nutrients, suffering through rush hour traffic for a look at the Galleria, where she bought herself a sexy pair of Michael Kors heels at Pumpz & Co. and a tie for her husband at then-hot Kuhlman.

It didn’t matter that she was a big time New York fashion editor and I was a Midwestern newspaper reporter barely fitting into my lame outfit, having given birth just a few months before. We were just a couple of girls who delighted in shopping.

We stayed in touch, and based on the articles and comments surfacing in the hours since her untimely death today at age 58 from breast cancer, so did many people lucky enough to cross paths with Charla. She may have moved in a rarified world, but her advice was always down to earth, timeless and a confidence boost to everyone–no matter age, or size. You’ve got to love someone with the common sense to tell women not to wear ruffled skirts. Ever. Even when they are on-trend. “Ruffles on the behind don’t flatter anyone!” she said. I hear that every time I step into a fitting room.

The last time I saw Charla was after a Mall of America appearance to promote her second best seller, “How Never to Look Fat Again.” We enjoyed a spirited dinner with friends. She excitedly jumped topics, from the latest diet to her encounters with Oprah to magazines and hair color. We parted with her encouraging me to write a book, and the moment she returned to New York, she actually sent me her agent’s name and number.

Charla was a good one. She will be missed.

Tabatha’s Take on New Season

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

I spoke to Tabatha Coffey, the no-nonsense hair dresser turned TV host, author and business coach, in anticipation of her season premiere tonight on Bravo. This season, Tabatha’s Salon Takeover becomes Tabatha  Takes Over as the tell-it-like-it-is queen of common sense tries to save a gay bar, a doggie day care, a bed and breakfast and a beauty school.

“So many people have written to me to say ‘I wish you would come to my business and help me,’” Coffey says. “It’s a natural progression. Business is business–especially when you’re dealing with the customer service industry and all the problems small businesses face.”

She starts the season true to her roots, by taking over Jungle Red Salon in Minneapolis. Bravo’s plot summary says “Owner Suzanne Erickson seems more interested in acting like a teenager than a boss.” Coffey is actually gentler: “Suzanne got off track. She was one of the girls, which is really a problem. You have to be a leader and hold your staff accountable.”

Coffey, who is still in touch with Jungle Red, says things at the salon are going much better now. She applauds Jungle Red for getting organized, getting better educated and dreaming up a signature hair cut, “The Sex Kitten.” “It’s very fitting for Jungle Red,” Coffey says. “And anything that helps you stand out in the market is a great thing. I think they’ll do well.”

She was less optimistic about H Design Salon at Lake and Lyndale, which will also be taken over by Tabatha later this season. “It was a unique situation. The owner is not a hairdresser. He didn’t know what he needed to give his staff to do their jobs effectively.” And it sounds like he didn’t take much advice.

“I do my best to go and try to help people see things from a different point of view,” Coffey says. “At the end of the day, as much as I try to get the staff to be honest about their problems, if the leader of the team doesn’t want to listen to that advice, things aren’t going to change.”

Attend a Tabatha viewing party tonight on the second floor of Seven, 700 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. The Jungle Red staff will be there to reveal “The Sex Kitten” cut in a runway show, and watch the episode, which airs at 9 p.m. on Bravo.

Want more? Listen to my conversation with Tabatha on Shop Girls, myTalk107.1 (halfway through hour 2 of  Jan. 7 show.)

The Anti-Priscilla

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

If only a David’s Bridal exec had bothered to do a quick Google search for “dress donation-Minnesota,” perhaps the company would have thought twice about destroying wedding dresses at Priscilla of Boston. Last week, employees of the now-defunct division of David’s Bridal were videotaped spray painting red Xs on designer gowns before the 50th & France store went out of business.

Operation Glass Slipper, which provides prom wear at no charge to girls who could not afford it, is one of several organizations in town that gladly would have accepted the gowns. Especially this month. Next weekend is Operation Glass Slipper’s annual dress sale. Thousands of dresses and wedding gowns from the Twin Cities-based non-profit’s excess inventory will be sold for $20 to $50 each. Proceeds will be used to purchase shoes, accessories and makeup that will be made available in March at the main event for prom-goers. The group outfits more than a thousand girls for prom each year. And that doesn’t count the hundreds more who are able to buy a new or gently used special occasion dress at an incredibly reasonable price during the annual overstock sale.

“We welcome all donations of attire, money, and time, and we are grateful to our volunteers and supporters without whose generosity this project would not be possible,” Operation Glass Slipper Director Pam Philipp said in a statement Thursday.
The sale takes place Friday, Jan. 13 to Sunday, Jan. 15 at the Park Crossing Shopping Center, 2233 Energy Park Drive, St. Paul.

What Not to Wear at the Fair

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Like fried food on a stick, bad fashion is fundamental to the Minnesota State Fair. We laugh, because we live here. Brace yourselves: the fanny pack and socks-with-sandals offenders are about to give us a bad rep on national television. TLC’s What Not to Wear filmed at the fairgrounds just before the 2011 Fair opened. Co-hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly ambushed an unsuspecting fan in the Agriculture Horticulture Building (poor thing thought she was being interviewed about her love of the fair…she even wore a red “Minnesota State Fair Lover” t-shirt). See it play out—crop art, Giant Slide and all, tonight at 8 p.m. on TLC.

Southdale Ready to Fix Itself

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

A press release has been issued, renderings have been released. This time, it’s more than talk: Southdale is finally, and I mean, finally, ready for the Big Fix. Or at least, first steps to restore the relevancy of nation’s first enclosed shopping center. Simon Property Group has got to put some money into modernizing the center if it is to attract prime stores. (You can be sure Michael Kors and Herberger’s–both opening in November–knew improvements were coming when they signed on.) These renovations are scheduled to begin in January:

  • Redesigned Food Court: The food court is moving to the second floor JC Penney wing. Southdale promises new vendors, new seating, sky lights and new restrooms. (The mall says the current third floor food court will remain open during construction, which is startling news, considering most shoppers assumed it closed years ago.)
  • New corridor. They’re busting through the wall that has closed off the JC Penney wing for better access and flow.
  • Remodeled mall entrance between JC Penney and Macy’s with a covered area, sliding doors and more modern look.
  • New play area. Now we’re talking. Southdale is planning an indoor/outdoor play area for kids near the remodeled entrance. It’s one of the simplest improvements that goes a long way toward being a community gathering spot…as I pointed out way back on Feb. 23, 2007 in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:


To whom it may concern at Simon Property Group, Inc.:

I’m really glad to hear you guys are buying Southdale Center. The place is a mess.

While other malls have found new anchors, the old Mervyn’s space remains vacant at Southdale. The food court is a ghost town, as is the JC Penney’s wing. One of the few new stores to open in recent months — Image — turned out to be a front for a drug operation. The latest blow came this week: Crate & Barrel — one of the few remaining draws — announced plans to move next door to the Galleria.

Understanding how things got this bad is difficult. Not to diminish the expertise it takes to run a successful shopping center, but managing Southdale seems like a no-brainer. The mall is located in affluent Edina, which has long been known as a regional shopping destination. It has one of the best Macy’s stores in town, plus premium retailers like J. Crew, Apple, Coach and Aveda. There’s a megaplex with stadium seating and the best row of upscale restaurant chains in town, including Minnesota’s only Cheesecake Factory, where it seems the wait is always an hour and a half. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, Simon, that Southdale has a national reputation as the country’s first enclosed mall.

What the mall needs now is a loving, monogamous relationship. Southdale has been bounced from owner to owner to owner in the past five years, and each has been too consumed with its own financial woes to give this mall the attention it needs. Do I sound emotional? Well, Southdale is my mall. It’s where I got my first hair cut, my first bra, my first job. It’s where I met up with boys (OK, watched them pass by) and tried on prom dresses with friends. It’s where I took my own baby on his first outing because I knew where all the bathrooms were located.

It’s sad to watch your hometown mall fall apart like this. Southdale was once the premiere Twin Cities shopping center. Now, there’s no compelling reason to visit — beyond the restaurants and movie theaters. And you don’t even need to walk through the rest of the mall to get to them. What a dumb design.

Something must be done to save Southdale.

I’m counting on you, Simon, to bring some much-needed stability to this local shopping institution. You did a competent job running Mall of America. (Until those renegade Ghermezian brothers snatched it back. Sorry to bring that up.) And Maplewood Mall, which you continue to operate, seems to be thriving. So I know you’re quite familiar with this market and our sophisticated taste. Living in the tundra doesn’t prevent us from being fashionable. We want the newest, the latest, the best.

Still, swooping in to heal the damage of neglect must seem a monumental task, even for an enormous retail real estate conglomerate like you. I’ve prepared a to-do list to get you started.

– Woo a high-end department store. We’ve all heard the rumors that Neiman Marcus is interested in Southdale. Jump on that! Or see if you can talk Saks Fifth Avenue into giving the Twin Cities another go. We’re drowning in moderate stores. Southdale built its reputation on distinction. It’s time to regain that crown.

– Gut the remains of that pathetic third-floor food court. Bring in vendors more appetizing than Sbarro and create an inviting space. For guidance, take a look at Eden Prairie Center, where a fireplace and leather sofas give the food court some actual atmosphere.

– Treat the gaping spaces throughout the center as an opportunity to once again create a unique tenant mix. Bring in some of the new retail chains that are looking for real estate at other upscale malls across the country. Forth & Towne, Gap’s new concept for women over 35, ought to be a great fit. An A/X Armani Exchange would certainly boost Southdale’s — and the Twin Cities’ — shopping image. Even a French Connection would help. Lacoste, which is hot once again on the coasts, would fit in perfectly in this preppy part of town.

– Find a way to open up that cavernous JC Penney wing, or at least make shoppers a little less scared to venture down there. No, I don’t have specifics — you’re the experts. Aren’t you?

– Add a free children’s play area. During the winter in Minnesota, malls become a substitute for parks. Parents go out of their way to frequent places where their children can burn off energy in a designated space. Rosedale, Ridgedale and Eden Prairie Center have figured this out. Time to catch up.

– While we’re on the subject of kids, some clean new family bathrooms would be a big improvement as well.

I’ve been told that even with competent management, it could take years to turn things around at Southdale in any meaningful way, so I’ll try to be patient. But be aware that Martin & Osa is just the latest hot new concept to open at Mall of America, Rosedale has that new lifestyle wing, Ridgedale just started a major renovation and the cozy cabin-like atmosphere at Eden Prairie Center is a compelling draw even without a ton of A-list stores. I’ll give you a fair chance to return Southdale to its former glory, but if you don’t do right by my mall, Simon, know that I’ve got options.

Aftermarket Missoni (Or Lack Thereof)

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

If only I’d gotten to Target just a little earlier last Tuesday, or hit “refresh” just a few times more on, I’d surely be lounging on a tropical island right now – perhaps my own private island – what with all my earnings from selling Missoni for Target items on eBay.

Or not.

I did have one shopper call in to Shop Girls to report that she sold a $39.99 Missoni blanket from Target for $180 on eBay. But the more common story seems to be my friend who snatched up $2,500 worth of Missoni for Target, took most of it to eBay, and even though she conservatively listed items for around 20 percent above original price, she’s sold just two – a vase and a duvet set. She made $15 on the vase, and stands to make $22 on the duvet…that is, if the buyer actually ponies up. Now filled with buyer’s remorse, she plans to return several unused items. Target could end up with more Missoni in stores after all.

Project Runway Ousts MN Designer

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Danielle Everine got her walking papers tonight on Project Runway after judges tore into her for what Nina Garcia described as a lousy chiffon blouse. But it wasn’t just the one blouse. What cinched it was a series of unmemorable designs. Everine, whose reserved demeanor didn’t help her win sympathy votes, kept her cool. In her parting comments, she said she didn’t think her design was the worst and she knows she’s a good designer. No doubt, she does have potential – she made the show. But I do hope she takes the critique from the Project Runway pros to heart and uses this experience to grow. Confidence is good. Over-confidence, not as much. Wonder if Target wants her back?

Indies vs Forever 21

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Feral Childe teepee print, top; Forever 21 bottom

Forever 21 is no stranger to lawsuits. The fast fashion chain has been sued many times, and accused many more, for lifting designs from other brands – often powerhouses like Diane von Furstenberg and Anna Sui. We act outraged, and then get back to shopping – it’s just so darn cheap and current, right? Maybe not this time. Indie brand Feral Child is the latest to sue Forever 21 for copyright infringement over a textile design, and they’ve got the backing of, which targets fashion labels for irresponsible practices. More than 2,500 have signed a petition calling for Forever 21 to pull any remaining Feral Child-like print clothing from its shelves. It may seem like small potatoes, but this case seems to have touched a nerve – and could perhaps make young shoppers think twice about the origins clothes they buy. It’s never cool to bully the little guy.

A Month at the Mall

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Scott, the Human Do.Ing, wraps up his month of living on display at Mall of America this Saturday. His stay in a glass apartment on the first level near Tucci Benucch and Urban Outfitters was sponsored by Blue Cross/Blue Shield to promote healthy living. Though he’s been sleeping between an ice cream stand and a cookie store, Scott has concentrated on eating salads and getting into shape. But here’s what you really want to know about surviving a sold month inside the nation’s largest mall:

Where did you do most of your shopping? Nike and Nordstrom Rack

Best purchase? Livestrong Nike running/walking shoes. So comfortable.
Most surprising discovery about the MOA? How absolutely massive it is. I never get bored, and I have been walking here a month. Also, how beautiful the sunrise is coming through the glass roof over looking Nickelodeon Universe.

What is the mall like after hours? Actually very quiet. You hear a few motorized carts buzzing around and an occasional “beep” of a lift going up or backing up. Its the craziest thing, I actually sleep pretty sound.

Any healthy food discoveries at the mall? I found that most places can do something healthy if you know how to ask. Chipotle is great; Napa Valley Grille and Tucci Benucch were ready to please me. Just by asking to have something steamed or grilled, all were happy to accommodate my special request.

Favorite way to exercise at the MOA? Hands down, WALKING!  Yoga at Lululemon is a pretty close second.

Best time for people watching at the mall? Lunch time. And the weekends!

Most memorable mall encounter? Hearing the stories of some of the Mall Stars, a group of seniors who walk in the mall each morning. We exchange hellos every morning, they all know my name.  I was  invited to an 8 a.m. birthday party for Winnie, 93 years old. We shared a piece of her chocolate birthday cake.  She was so sweet, and still up and walking around. That is what I want to be doing at 93.

Purchase spotted most often? I know that American Girl is very popular, and I am next to the Nestle Toll House cookie display and Kemps ice cream store on the other side, so, tons of cookies and big ice cream cones, which, about 1 in 10 hit the floor if the child is 4 or younger. And yes, the 10 second rule applies on a $4 ice cream cone! | Mpls.St.Paul Magazine © 2008 MSP Communications, Inc. All rights reserved