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Ali Shops Blog

Archive for the ‘Shopping Tips’ Category

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J.W. Hulme Sample Sale

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Sale alert! J.W. Hulme is holding its semi-annual Seconds and Samples Sale this Saturday, Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its St. Paul headquarters. It’s your chance to get a great deal on slightly imperfect leather and canvas bags and accessories from this consummate American brand. Get a sneak peek of the goods here. Good chance that shelf will be mostly empty by noon. 678 W. Seventh St., St. Paul

Click here for more sale listings!

Time for a Spa Deal?

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

We expect salon/spa pricing to vary based on the stylist or technician’s experience. But what about time of day? The newly remodeled New Reflections Spa Salon in Plymouth recently  introduced spa flex pricing. Patrons now pay a premium for the most popular time slots, and get a break at off hours. So, a 60-minute massage might be $60 at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday, and $75 at noon on a Saturday. I’ve noticed more salons and spas offering last minute deals, often via Facebook and Twitter, for open appointments, but I like the idea of institutionalizing it – the New Reflections price sheet indicates premium and off hours. No coupons required or social networking required. Consumers love a price break, and the spa is creating better odds of filling slow times. What do you think?  Plymouth Town Center, 3530 Vicksburg Lane – Suite 400m Plymouth, 763-559-3185

How Young is Too Young?

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Tween/teen retailer Zelaz of Excelsior recently asked customers – parents and their daughters – what age is appropriate for girls to start wearing bikinis, short shorts, miniskirts and stilettos.

Girls thought 12 was appropriate for such potentially eyebrow-raising styles. Their moms felt more comfortable with 13. Dads said 15.

“No wonder there’s tension at home,” says Zelaz owner Janet Polach, who opened the store with her own teen daughter – who, lucky for Polach, prefers to wear cardigans over her tank tops).

Polach advises mothers and daughters to talk before they shop, and come to some compromises. Maybe daughter needs to find a longer skirt…and maybe mom needs to realize that showing bra straps isn’t suggestive, so much as common style for teens these days. Polach even suggests involving Dads – who rarely make appearances in the store – to avoid the “You’re not wearing that!” showdown the night of a school dance.

We talked about the issue on Shop Girls Saturday (June 18 podcast – hour 2) and heard from moms who’ve made the rules clear to their own daughters – like, leggings required beneath mini skirts and my favorite: No Bs allowed. That’s boobs, bellies or butts. “It’s definitely a family specific conversation,” says Polach, who walks that fine line of wanting to appeal to young girls, but still pass the mother test. “Set limits and hold the line,” she advises.

Need a mediator? Polach conducts fashion workshops for moms and daughters both in store and off site. Zelaz, 287 Water St., Excelsior, 952-920-1044,

Hot Mama Eliminating Maternity

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

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.

Bibelot Helps Tornado Victims

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Bibelot will donate 5 percent of gross sales from Friday, May 27 to Sunday, May 29 to to help those impacted by the North Minneapolis tornado last weekend. Another reason to shop local.

Ted Baker Bags at MODE

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Got to give MODE designer outlet in Maple Grove credit for good gets: This Saturday, it’s 150 Ted Baker handbags. Originallly as much as $345, the bags in various sizes, prints and colors will be sold for $20 to $50. Doors open at 9 a.m.!

Calypso St. Barth for Target

Monday, April 25th, 2011

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.

Designer Animal Crackers

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

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.

Corset Reopening

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Corset boutique reopens in Hopkins today. New owner Jodi Mayers, a former sales and marketing executive specializing in customer service training, plans to continue focusing on women 30 to 65, offering professional, contemporary and casual apparel, sizes 0 to 20. She tells me she’ll carry many of the same brands, but also intends to add European and Canadian lines, and develop relationships with local designers. She’s adding more denim as well as evening options – all at a range of price points. Mayer plans to relaunch Corset’s personal styling membership program in the fall – the transition should be smooth with original owner Carrie Leum consulting.

Notes from a Saturday at MOA

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Spent the better part of Saturday at Mall of America, starting with a live broadcast of Shop Girls” at the Operation Glass Slipper Princess Event, including a visit to Sea Life Minnesota, and ending with a mad dash through DSW some nine hours later. Here’s what I learned:

People start lining up for Rainforest Cafe at 10:30 a.m. No wonder it’s so challenging to get in at dinner time.

Nordstrom is “going green,” offering to email customer receipts rather than printing it out. (They have long put a return sticker on every item at point of purchase, so the receipt isn’t really needed for returns anyway.

J. Crew has decided not to offer its swim collection at any of its Twin Cities stores this spring. Shortsighted – the cold makes Minnesotans all the more likely to take a beach vacation. And finding the perfect swimsuit is difficult enough without guessing online.

If you want to shop Nordstrom Rack on a busy Saturday, make it your first stop, while you have the patience to deal with the crowd, lines and assorted odors.

Pays to buy tickets in advance to the new Sea Life Minnesota – you save $5 each by ordering online, and you get to enter through an express lane. Now, whether or not admission is worth the $14.99 in advance ($19.99 at the door) is another question. The name isn’t all that’s changed: The mall aquarium, now run by Merlin Entertainment Group, just completed a major renovation that includes a new stingray exhibit, an enormous Poseidon figure in the shark tank, new sea creatures, and more educational elements. The good: The stingray tank at the new entryway (they flipped the entrance and exit) is cool – it’s at eye level for kids and includes a deck that allows you to walk over the stingrays. The jellyfish exhibit is striking, the sea horses are so cute, and the shark cove that lets you to experience sharks, stingrays and sawfish swimming overhead is still awesome (and seems longer somehow). The bad: The new “hands-on submarine play area” is ill-conceived. First of all, it’s aimed at a very narrow population of 2 to 5 year olds, which is an accident waiting to happen for bigger who still have the urge to climb. Second, the play structure is crammed in a corner near the exit with little space for strollers – something virtually every person stopping there is going to have. Ultimately, even with the added features, aquarium admission still seems pricey. It’s a great addition to a mall visit, but not a day’s outing, like going to some of the other museums in town. For an aquarium in the basement of a mall, it’s mighty impressive. But even with the slow moving crowd in front of us, we were done in around 90 minutes.

The Barnes & Noble Cafe is a wonderful respite from the chaos of the mall rotunda (and offers quiche and soft pretzels and other snacks beyond the usual Starbucks baked goods.

Entering the mall off of I-494 on Killebrew Drive is always faster than Lindau Lane. But parking near Nordstrom is entirely more civilized than the east side lots.

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