In Store or Online, Now is the Time to Shop Until You Drop

There are two types of holiday shoppers. The first (and I’m a member of this group) shops all year long, and by holiday-time, has gifts wrapped and labeled for each person on his or her list.  The other type of holiday shopper intends to go out and get all the shopping done in one day, like ripping off a band-aid. Invariably though, the approach doesn’t work, and shopper’s in the second group end up having to brave long lines, sore feet, and grumpy salespeople, hoping to first last-minute gifts that will bring joy.

I love to shop, and wandering around my favorite stores is not a chore, it is usually a pleasure, but years ago, after being forced on Christmas Eve  into a department store to purchase ski gloves  for a last-minute trip, I swore I’d never shop again from Black Friday to the first week in January.  But  that’s not always a promise I can keep.  Even if you’re not one of the last-minute holiday shoppers,  you may find yourself shopping for things you need.

The good news is that there are really great bargains and fun shopping to be had online, and most established bricks and mortar stores now offer E-commerce for those who like to shop at home.   Some of my favorite stores that also provide opportunities for great online shopping, are Lands Ends, Home Goods, Nordstrom,  Burlington Coat Factory, Sears/KMart and clothing stores such as Ann Taylor LOFT.com,  Talbots, H&MForever 21, and  Century 21,  

But, some of my favorite shopping “go-to’s) aren’t actual, they are completely virtual. The choices are so vast, it can be overwhelming, but if you know where to look, you can find some great bargains, unique items, and the ability to avoid crowds and shop in your loungewear (or nothing at all if that’s how you like it).  Three of the most established and vast in selection, quality, price and reliability, are Amazon, QVC, and HSN. The benefits to shopping these mega-shopping sites is that you can get virtually anything you can think of and you know your payment information will be safe and secure, and that your orders will arrive with good communication, and without delay.

If you haven’t finished up your holiday shopping, or you just want some tips on where you can get deals and delightful shopping all year round, read on:


Lands End is one of my all time favorite shopping site both online as well as from their catalogue. Their customer service is superior. One quick example:  When my husband’s Lands End briefcase ended up in the rubble of 9-11 at the World Trade Center (he was there but he’s ok), Lands End replaced the bag immediately with no hassle and no charge.  I was amazed.  But more importantly, the products are as described and of good quality, and if something doesn’t meet your expectations, they harass you about returns.  In the past, Lands End had conservative fashions, but they’ve really stepped up the trend quotient of their products as well, and added cute shoes and jewelry, along with a huge range of swimwear, dresses, and everything in-between. They even have a very nice selection for plus size women, along with gorgeous home goods,  and clothes real men and even kids, will actually want to wear. For the holidays however,  I love the Lands End Wine Totes that look like their iconic canvas sailors totes. For  $15.00 you can get a single bottle wine tote that you can personalize, or make it a double for just $25.00. This is just one of a myriad of great holiday gifts ideas from landsend.com

Recently, I’ve discovered Home Goods, an off-price store with great merchandise and discounts.  Like TJ Maxx and Marshalls,this store has buyers that gets first quality merchandise directly from designers, but much closer to the season than department stores do. They can buy as little or as much “overage” that is available, so the designers will negotiate a better deal. Most items are top quality but if something is irregular, it is clearly marked as such. All the food items are also sold before their expiration date as are the cosmetics . At their preview, I was amazed…dazzled actually, at the huge range of gifts Home Goods has.  My pick at the preview is this quartet of wine glasses, each with a different etched pattern for just $9.99. These are probably sold out now, but the great thing about stores like Home Goods is that you can be confident that there will always be plenty of other things you can’t wait to take home or give as gifts. You can’t purchase items on the website, but you can find Home Goods locations near you, read the Home Goods blog full of holiday ideas, and see what kinds of gift-ables are currently in the Home Goods stores.

You don’t have to be budget-minded to enjoy the mind-blowing array of gift-ables and great products and fashions year-round at the Burlington Coat factory, but when you see how much you can get, for less, you’ll point your feet in the direction of your nearest Burlington Coat Factory store.  Like Home Goods, they’re an off-price store with great discounts.

Burlington Coat factory also has good shopping online  although not everything (e.g. shoes) are available on the net. But you can get some things right now online, such as this 15-piece cookware set  that comes in fabulous colors, by a Famous Maker for just $99.99 (a $179.99 value).  Of course you can get clothing for the entire family at Burlington Coat Factory, including lots of stylish coats. My pick is this leather jacket with a quilted pattern that would be $300.00 elsewhere but is literally 50% off at $149.99 at Burlington.  You never know what you’re going to find at the stores, or online….exciting, actually!

Nordstrom is a traditional department store selling everything from fashions to home goods to gourmet items, and just about anything else you might desire.  When you visit Nordstrom stores during holiday time, they are always elegantly decorated and make you feel good.  But there are bound to be lots of shoppers joining you this time of year. The reason I’m mentioning Nordstrom is that, like Lands End, their business model is built on customer service.  Trained salespeople who are actually helpful,  clean bathrooms and decent eateries, are just some of the ways Nordstrom  makes it a pleasure to shop.  Their concierge services are excellent, and the sheer range and quality of their merchandise is exceptional. But when I think of Nordstrom, I think not just of their extensive shoe selection, but of their huge beauty offerings.  Recently, the Advice Sisters included Nordstrom beauty in a holiday shopping feature. Nordstrom’s beauty services include an on-demand beauty stylist, and an Aveda spa right in the store.  The Nordstrom makeup palette in the photo is an outstanding value at just $35.00, but you can find your favorite makeup brands (and some very unique boutique ones) in the stores and online. Visit: http://shop.nordstrom.com if you can’t make it into a Nordstrom store, or just want to stay home and shop that way.

Sears and KMart are stores that are beloved by people all over the United States, and for good reason. They offer a wide range of products that are affordable, and they’re doing everything possible to make it easier for shoppers who are busy, and on a budget.  Everyone knows that Sears is famous for Craftsman tools, and I can’t think of a single man or DIY-er who wouldn’t love something from Craftsman, but there are plenty of other things to tempt you at these stores, such as home goods, electronics, and even some pretty dazzling fashions and accessories. To make it easy for customers to manage their time and their budgets, both Sears and Kmart offer layaway at kmart.com and sears.com where you can choose items for layaway, make payments online, and pick them up at the store,or opt to have the items shipped to your home.  They also have a bunch of innovative ways to shop, including a mobile checkout in 500 Sears and Kmart stores, that outfits sales people with smart tablets. Customers can get information on even big ticket items such as televisions and tools, and buy them right there from one of these tablet-wielding salespeople, without having to wait on line at the register.  Kmart has plenty of trendy items for kids, teens, and adults, including brands that are beloved, such as Sophia Vergara, Jacyln Smith and Sandra Lee and the Kardashian Kollection at Sears. The Advice Sisters love that Kmart and Sears give back, too.  Since 2006 Kmart has been the largest corporate contributor to the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign, with a $1, $5 and $10 add-on program in stores. This year Kmart hopes to raise more than $6 million for this worthy cause. The company also  gives back to military families with their Sears’ Heroes at Home Wish Registry and donations are distributed via gift cards to 20,000 families in early December.  If you haven’t visited one of these stores for a while, you’ll be very pleasantly surprised. They have great things for everyone on your gift list, and for you, all year round.

Amazon has an amazing array of products, from books and movies (how they began) to food, fashion and electronics and more.  If you are an Amazon Prime Member  (there is an annual fee of $79.00) you can get all sorts of  great benefits including second day free shipping. When I was a member, I used it all the time to get those things I needed right away but didn’t have time to shop for in the store. Customer service is excellent.  You can even get a “What is Amazon Prime?” e-bookfor your Kindle for $2.99 that explains it all. But for me, the best thing Amazon has is the Kindle Fire. I got the version of the Kindle Fire that was so wildly popular, it sold out earlier this year. I didn’t think there could be anything better, but low and behold, now there is a new  bunch of  Kindle Fire HD  ($199.00-$299.00 *more for 4G wireless) to which even more improvements have been made.  This newbie is packed with benefits, including  (just for starters): 1280×800 HD display with polarizing filter and anti-glare technology for rich color and deep contrast from any viewing angle; Exclusive Dolby audio and dual-driver stereo speakers for immersive, virtual surround sound; the World’s first tablet with dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi for 40% faster downloads and streaming; High performance 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor with Imagination PowerVR 3D graphics core for fast and fluid performance, access to over 22 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, books, audiobooks, and popular apps and games such as Facebook,NetflixTwitterHBO GOPandora, and Angry Birds Space; Integrated support for Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and more, as well as Exchange calendar, contacts, and email, Front-facing HD camera for taking photos or making video calls using Skype, Facebook, and other apps (*this has been missing from other Kindle version) and free unlimited cloud storage for all your Amazon content..and much more. I admit that I want one!  But Amazon can fulfill your shopping needs all year round with items in every category from stationery to stilettos.  Visit www.amazon.com to learn more about both Kindle Fire and Amazon Prime, and to shop the website.

The Advice Sisters love online shopping in mega sites like QVC and HSN.  This holiday season, we’ve included a number of gifts from QVC in our holiday coverage (just use our search box at the top right hand part of this page) and type in “QVC” to find them all. One of my favorite things on QVC, however, is their beauty bonanza of popular and unique products and gift sets.  Recently I crafted a post just on QVC beauty that, if you missed it on November 28th, you’ll want to check out now.

 HSN has so many things I’d like to own, I often check out the web site just to window shop.  But HSN also has lots of delightful holiday-centric items, and great bargains in every category. The Advice Sisters have always liked to suggest the HSN holiday ornaments that benefit St. Judes Childrens Research Hospital. This one from Colin Cowie is just $14.95.

From Pets to pizza wheels, shoes to shawls, jewelry to kitchen to kitch, you’ve got to check out QVC.com and HSN.com, or watch their hosts demonstrate items, on television. QVC has videos for almost every product on their web site as well, so you can really get a better idea of what the items look like and perform.

Who doesn’t love a bargain?  One of the exciting ways to shop is at “membership”  and off-brand online sites where the merchandise changes literally on a daily basis, so you never know what kind of goodies are going to pop up.  I’ve purchased everything from clothing and jewelry, to wine, and all have been satisfactory. Some of these sites even have local specials and travel bargains.  Of course, if you’re not shopping for holiday gifts, it’s always fun to sign up and put yourself on the mailing list to see what special sales are happening every single day of  the year. To fully appreciate the excitement of these sites, not to mention the savings, you really do need to be a savvy shopper (and read the details of each item carefully), but when you “hit it big” you won’t believe your good fortune.  Here are some good ones to try:

I like Beyond the Rack because they seem to have one of the widest selections for men, women, home, travel, food and more. For example, I recently purchased a DeLonghi Tri-Blade Variable Speed Hand Blender from Beyondtherack.com for literally half of what it is going for in most stores. It took about 10 days to arrive, but I wasn’t in a hurry for it, and with 50% savings, I was delighted.

 


Ideeli also has plenty of amazing deals, some of which I saw in person at their holiday preview.  There is something for everyone this holiday, from a retro Crosley radio/turntable (reminds me of one I had as a child) to this stunning, Cara Couture rhinestone collar. With online shopping, you have to factor in shipping costs, but even with those, most items are either hard to get and/or well discounted, even when you add shipping back in. For the holidays, however, Ideeli is offering 30 days of shipping for just $9.95. Pay once and shipping is free for the next 30 days!  There are also extended returns where eligible items can be returned until January 15, 2013,  so if that sweater you bought your dad doesn’t fit, he isn’t stuck with it.  Ideeli is very popular (with good reason). Front Row Members get access to all the sales an hour before the general public, and there’s a fee for this.  However, if you’re not a Front Row member you may be disappointed when you finally find the items you want to buy. If you’re going to be a frequent shopper at Ideeli, it’s well worth the nominal cost to join the Front Row crowd. Visit www.ideeli.com   

Other note-able off-price and discounters are GiltGroup.com; Overstock.com. If you feel the need for sexy and  affordable shoes every month check out the membership shoe shopping site, Shoedazzle.com or visit Zappos.com for a wider range of shoes to suit every budget, need and style (and at a discount, too). For high end designer items The Advice Sisters like Bluefly.com and net-a-porter.com/  These just scratch the surface of what you can find, online.

These shopping sites just scratch the surface, but hopefully they’ve excited you enough to get you going out to shop, or staying in and ordering online.  If you have other web sites and bricks and mortar stores that  you love, and that I didn’t list, please leave a COMMENT with your favorites, so we can expand the list in 2013.

 

–happy shopping and happy holidays,

Alison Blackman Dunham, aka. Advice Sister Alison

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