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Confessions of a “Recovering” Shopaholic

With all the hoopla surrounding the newly released film, Confessions of a Shopaholic, I thought it only fitting that I blog about the subject matter, especially given that 17.5 million Americans suffer from compulsive buying. Yes, myself included. While certainly not one of my better traits, I’m well on the road to recovery (as if I really had a choice in this economy?) and I thought I’d share some of the warning signs and preventative measures to help you or someone you know.

Just like alcohol and gambling for some, compulsive buying is an addiction and can be destructive to you and those around you… just ask my husband! “When it becomes repetitive and gets to the point where you’re actually craving it, that becomes a problem,” says Terrence Shulman, founder of The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft & Spending.

Just so you’re aware, compulsive buying had its roots well before Sophie Kinsella’s chick lit novel became a best seller. In fact, the disorder was first identified by a German doctor in 1915 who referred to it as “oniomania” for the Greek term “onios,” which means “for sale.” Even the American Psychiatric Association is considering including compulsive buying in it’s updated manual of mental disorders.

With retailers’ aggressive discounting due to the disastrous economy, no wonder compulsive buying is even more prevalent than ever before. Everywhere I go it seems as if there’s a designer deal to be had. Even high-end department stores like Bergdorf Goodman are currently selling designer merch at discounts of up to 50% off…. something that was unheard of before. That, coupled with the recent trend of those time-sensitive luxury sample sale sites like BeyondTheRack.com and Gilt.com, serial shopping almost sounds justified.

Brave enough to ask yourself if you suffer from compulsive shopping behavior? Better ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a closet filled with unworn designer duds with the tags still attached, yet still feel you have nothing to wear?
  • Does your monthly shoe allowance exceed your rent?
  • Do you return almost everything you buy? Yes, this is still a symptom of a related disorder (a.k.a. shopping bulimia).
  • When you’re feeling blue, do you seek comfort at one of the three B’s: Bloomies, Bergdorf’s or Barney’s?
  • Do you hide purchases from your significant other and lie about what you spend (sorry dad, you might want to search Mom’s closet!).
  • When you shop, do you feel a rush of euphoria mixed with feelings of anxiety?

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions, you likely have compulsive buying tendencies. For more information on symptoms and treatment, visit The Shulman Center For Compulsive Theft & Spending or shopaholicsanonymous.org

Do you suffer from compulsive shopping? Share your stories with the Fashion Junkie community.

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Lancôme Ôscillation: Good Vibrations

imageAs a bonafide beauty junkie, I’ve come across a lot of “eye-opening” gadgets in my time, but nothing even comes close to Lancôme Ôscillation – the world’s first battery-operated, vibrating mascara wand.

I know, you’re probably wondering: “why on earth does anyone need a $34 dollar gizmo like this added to their everyday beauty routine?” For starters, this revolutionary black mascara is made from an ultra-moisturizing formula that has incredible staying power. But the biggest benefit is the built-in miniaturized motor that oscillates 7000 times per minute, giving you controlled and evenly defined eyelash coverage that doesn’t clump! The vibrating wand extends, separates and voluminizes lashes in just three quick and easy steps:

Step 1: Simply unscrew the cap and press the little button to activate the vibrating wand. You’ll hear a buzzing nose that sounds like an electric toothbrush. Make sure to hold the button down during application for a continuous vibration.

Step 2: Wipe the wand with a piece of Kleenex to remove excess mascara. I always do this before application for a more natural look.

Step 3: Place the wand at the base of the lash line, hold it steady and slowly glide it upwards from root to tip. There’s no need to zig-zag or use fast little strokes – Lancôme Ôscillation does all the work! Count up to five seconds (for each application) to ensure the best results. Notice how your upper lashes are thicker and longer… without any clumps!

Keep in mind: one quick coat is all you need for gorgeous, longer-looking and natural lashes. For a more dramatic result, simply apply another 2-3 coats. Just make sure to wait at least 30 seconds for the mascara to dry. You can also add the mascara to your lower lashes to really make your eyes pop.

Try Lancôme Ôscillation and you’ll never have to fuss with an eyelash curler,  falsies or bleaching agents again! Plus, it’s goof-proof, makes for a perfect stocking stuffer and is just plain fun!

Buy your tube of Lancôme Ôscillation at Sephora.com while supplies last.

 

 

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Holiday Retail Round-Up: The Final Push

imageTo deal with the sharp decline in consumer spending, apparel retailers are devising clever ways to move sale merchandise during this pivotal holiday shopping season. Arguably, the most critical period for retailers, the 4th quarter can make or break a company’s profitability targets for the year.

Consumer spending this holiday season also sets the tone for merchandising strategies in fiscal ’09. Since it’s crucial for retailers to push overstock inventory right now, they’re pulling out all the stops. While some sales strategies are tried and true (e.g., gift cards, downloadable coupons, one-day-only sales, friends-and-family discounts and ramped-up rewards programs) this season offers some newfangled techniques to get consumers’ attention. Dara Fleischer of FashionJunkie.com investigates.

Online Social Networking
US apparel brands are finally waking up to the benefits of low-cost, high-impact marketing and the viral buzz of online social networks. From setting up interactive, store-branded Facebook groups, flashy MySpace pages, viral YouTube videos and Twitter accounts, these targeted online tactics instantly help retailers attract new customers, generate site traffic and ultimately, sell more products.

imageFor example, New York & Company, a leading specialty retailer of women’s fashion apparel and accessories, recently launched a Facebook group that incorporates videos featuring “Trendy Not Spendy” holiday looks along with celebrity stylist wardrobe tips, must-have holiday merchandise, current promotions (e.g., take 30% off every purchase on Cyber Monday) and branded “NY Style Notebook” widgets, which enable would-be shoppers to receive the latest offers directly on their desktop. Daily bulletins are also posted on their Facebook “wall,” informing fans about holiday sale stock, gift-giving selections as well as how to receive 20% off their entire purchase. The ultimate goal: to get New York & Company Facebook (group) members to spread the word about these irresistible deals and ultimately, shop in-store.

Alternative Distribution Channels: Blogger Outreach
imageWeb-savvy fashion retailers such as Lucky Brand Jeans have begun courting influential bloggers to help boost holiday sales. The popular sportswear label recently reached out to Glam Media’s curated network of top-tier fashion bloggers (from over 700 leading women’s lifestyle websites) to write posts endorsing an exclusive Lucky Jeans holiday promotion. Each post, such as this one from Stiletto Jungle, included a blurb about the brand’s latest holiday offerings, an eye-catching image and the promo details.

Deeper Discounts
imageTo compensate for unsold Fall/Winter ’08 inventory and to make room for pre-spring shipments, luxury department stores across the country such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman are offering deeper discounts than ever before. Mind-boggling discounts of up to 70% off (amounts previously unheard of) the original ticketed price are being offered. Even off-price retailers such as Loehmann’s, DSW, T.J. Maxx and Filene’s Basement are currently offering coveted designer merchandise for up to 65% off original department store prices.

Buy One, Get One Free
imageAccording to market research firm NDP Group, since stores are already offering up to 70% off and have mounds of inventory that merchants need to clear, retailers will likely be doing more two-for-one deals this holiday season. Pear, a trendy New York-based shoe boutique, is currently offering a “buy one, get one free” footwear promotion. And Gap Inc. recently launched a buy-one-get-one 50% off sweater sale for their online shoppers.

VIP Services
imageIndependent boutiques are being crushed by big budget department store promotions so they’ve been forced to come up with their own innovative ways to move sale merchandise. Owner Lydia Burd of Shop, a cult clothing and accessories boutique located in New York’s Lower East Side, started hosting weekly trunk shows, whereby designers like Siwy (founder of the cult denim label) stop by to educate customers about choosing a flattering denim fit. All the featured styles were marked down an additional 20% off exclusively for customers that night.

imageJackie Atkins, owner of nearby Pear as well as Plum, a high-fashion boutique, has also tweaked her holiday shopping strategy due to the crashing economy. “I’m offering customers more specialized services such as free styling sessions to make them feel special and ultimately shop,” exclaimed Atkins. If a customer buys something that’s suggested during the styling session, they automatically receive 50% off each item. Plus, if they spend $200 at Plum, they’re also entitled to a 15% discount at Pear.

Back To Basics
imageDespite all the new tactics and tools available, some retailers such as The Shoe Box, a contemporary New York-based footwear boutique, use a more traditional approach to push holiday merchandise. Store manager Sean Kirsch and his staff regularly contact customers by phone and send hand-written notes informing them of special promotions and in-store events. Explains Kirsch, “We’re making a concerted effort to stay on top of customers so they come into our stores to shop. At the end of the day, communication and consistent service is what sells.”

 

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FashionJunkie.com’s “Recessionista Fashion Tips” Featured on Yahoo Shine!

imageCheck out my Yahoo! Shine “Holly Days” blog post to learn How To Score A Holiday Wardrobe… Without Spending A Dime! Read the article after the Jump!

3 Foolproof Ways For Scoring A Holiday Wardrobe… Without Spending A Dime!image

Blame it on the current economic crisis or Suze Orman on-the-brain, but I’ve finally decided to smarten-up and tighten the purse strings. That’s right. Aside from no longer blowing my hard-earned cash on impulse clothing purchases at ShopBop.com (read: $475 sequin-encrusted Pedro Garcia pumps), I’ve also put the kibosh on weekly manicures and Sally Hershberger designer haircuts (well, at least as of yesterday). I’ve also found a a few sure-fire ways to score a red-haute holiday wardrobe… without putting pressure on your pocketbook! Here are some insider tips for sprucing up your holiday look on a recessionista’s budget.

Recessionista Rule #1: Start Shopping In Your Closet!

imageDon’t ditch your clothing castoffs just yet! You can get more mileage out of your existing wardrobe with just a few simple tweaks:

Raid your boyfriend’s closet! Over-sized items like a black vest, boxy blazer and the classic white button down shirt look beyond stylish when paired with skinny jeans and even short skirts.

• Add life to any lackluster coat by throwing it on with a cinched patent leather belt.

• Transform a dull jacket into dazzling by sewing on some of granny’s glitzy antique buttons. Plastic is so passé.

Befriend your tailor! Simple alterations such as shortening a skirt hem will make a world of difference.

• Modernize any dated ensemble by throwing on vintage accessories such as chunky jewelry or a print neck scarf.

• Punch up a faded frock in a flash by tie-dying it. Believe it or not, acid-washed denim is back!

• Instantly update your look by layering unexpected fabrics. For example, pair a chiffon floral dress with opaque tights and a fitted ¾ length belted cardigan. Add a pair of chunky cowboy boots and you’re good to go!

Recessionista Rule #2: Host A Swap Shop

imageIs your wardrobe in need of a minor modification or a major makeover? Either way, a “swap shop” may be just the ticket. This ingenious girls-only shopping soirée allows you to acquire coveted clothes while leaving your wallet at home. Plus, it’s a great way to meet other clotheshorses and swap war stories from the women’s front. Ready to say good riddance to your garb? Read these top tips for hosting a successful swap:

Swapping 101:

• First, send out an e-vite, the easiest way to get a gaggle of girls together. Just make sure you give people enough time to clean out their closets and pack up the goods.

• When guests arrive, dump all the clothing into a central pile, making it easy to rummage through. Trade treasures for items of equal value. To avoid catfights, have each guest pick a number out of a hat (like a holiday party grab bag) giving first dibs to the person with the lowest number.

• Clothing and accessories should be gently used. Any garments with holes or stains are taboo. Launder or dry clean items before bringing them to the swap.

• Donate unwanted items to charity. Many organizations such as Housing Works and The Salvation Army offer free pickup services. Soles4souls.org will gladly accept gently worn shoes.

Recessionista Rule #3: Frequent Clothing Exchange Stores

imageAre you a frugal fashionista who can’t live without the latest “it” brands? Then don’t discredit clothing and accessory resale stores such as Buffalo Exchange, which boasts 33 locations across the US. 

Looking to trade in your closet castoffs for something cooler? If you donate clothing, Buffalo Exchange will offer you 30% of the total – they add up the total amount of all the items you bring in and you get 30% of that price. OR… you can accept 50% of that total in store credit. Brace yourself for an ever-changing roster of luxe designer labels, including the all-mighty Prada, Marc Jacobs (haute handbags for $100!), Betsey Johnson (party dresses for only $40!) and Dolce & Gabbana (killer pumps for $50!). They also stock a well-edited assortment of vintage, denim and other to-die-for threads. Sounds too good to be true? Visit buffaloexchange.com to see for yourself!

I’m curious… how has the current economy made you rethink your holiday shopping strategy? Don’t be shy… share your stories with the Fashion Junkie community!

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Holiday Shopping… On A Shoestring Budget!

imageWho knew that the tanking economy would actually be a boon to holiday shoppers? Well, sort of. Due to the sharp drop in consumer spending, big name department stores across the country have been forced to unload excess inventory. As a result, a bonanza of mind-blowing clothing and accessory bargains can now be found both in-store and online. As a case in point, off-price retailers like Loehmann’s, DSW and Off 5th (Saks Fifth Avenue’s designer outlet) are currently offering coveted designer merch for up to 75% off retail!

This is just but one of several ways to score a red-haute holiday wardrobe on a shoestring budget. From cracking online discount codes to comparison-shopping sleuthing and haggling to hosting a “swap shop,” here are some sure-fire insider tips for tweaking your look, without putting pressure on your purse. Read more after the Jump!

imageHost A Swap Shop

Is your wardrobe in need of a minor modification or a major makeover? Either way, a “swap shop” may be just the ticket. This ingenious girls-only shopping soirée allows you to acquire coveted clothes while leaving your wallet at home. Plus, it’s a great way to meet other clotheshorses and swap war stories from the women’s front. Think you’re prepared to wave good-bye to your garb? Read these top tips for hosting a successful swap:

Swapping 101:

• First, send out an e-vite, the easiest way to get a gaggle of girls together Just make sure you give people enough time to clean out their closets and pack up the goods.

• When guests arrive, dump all the clothing into a central pile, making it easy to rummage through. Trade treasures for items of equal value. To avoid catfights, have each guest pick a number out of a hat (like a holiday party grab bag) giving first dibs to the person
      with the lowest number.

• Clothing and accessories should be gently used. Any garments with holes or stains are taboo. Launder or dry clean items before bringing them to the swap.

• Donate unwanted items to charity. Many organizations such as Housing Works and The Salvation Army offer free pickup services. Soles4souls.org will gladly accept gently worn shoes.

imageBarter for Brand New Clothing Bargains!

With today’s shaky economy, unsold designer goods are piling up in retailers’ stockrooms like never before. And since major department stores and independent boutiques are so desperate to sell stock before the arrival of next season’s shipments, sales are no surprise. Less well-known, however, is the fact that major retailers are willing to reduce prices on brand new clothing items and accessories, so long as you ask. Simply approach a store manager about the particular item in question, attempt to negotiate on the price, and they’ll likely shave off anywhere from 10% up to 30%. Sounds crazy, but in this depressed economy, it can’t hurt to ask.

Think you have the chutzpah to haggle in a major chain store? Better read these expert barter tips:

•  Politely ask the store manager if they can reduce the price of a garment when you get to the cash. If they refuse to offer the discount, either pay full price or walk away.

•  Shop around! If you know that another retailer offers the same clothing item at a cheaper price, politely mention this to the store manager, as they might be willing to match it.

•  Deals are often left to the discretion of salespeople. If you’re denied once, it doesn’t hurt to find a different salesperson or store manager and ask again.

Take Advantage of Online Discount Codes

imageBelieve it or not, but you don’t have to pay full price for designer clothes or accessories, thanks to discount codes lurking around in cyberspace. Have you ever noticed that little blank discount box that appears on just about every online retailer’s checkout page? Well, there is a quick n’ easy way of tracking down those mysterious promo codes. Crack ‘em fast with these full-proof online shopping tricks:

• “Google” the name of the store you’re inquiring about along with the words “promotion” or “discount code”. This is guaranteed to generate multiple promo codes for that particular e-tailer. Alternatively, there are also a number of sites that might help you track down discount codes, including:

Reesycakes.com: equips shoppers with the tools they need to make savvy purchasing decisions, such as discount codes for major online retailers and printable in-store coupons.

Salegrab.com scours the web for the hottest sales so you don’t have to. Simply sign-up for a free account, then search for all your favorite designer brands by category (clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry, and home and garden) and you’ll instantly see the current sale price! Plus, you can even sort by sale, saving, price, votes and new, making salegrab.com that much easier (and fun!) to navigate. Make sure to tag your “grabs” (those tiny green squares beneath each item) to access all your favorite picks within the central “MyGrab” page. Happy hunting!

NearbyNow.com offers a fun new way for shoppers’ to find products or sales at your local mall, and even pick up the merchandise the same day from the Internet or phone before venturing outside. On the site, type in your state, click on the nearest mall, then enter the product you’re looking for. Find something you like at a price you love? Check to see if it’s in-stock. Once you register, you can even receive coupons sent straight to your cell, so you can walk right into a store and take advantage of special deals. This saves you money and time.

CurrentCodes.com: lists coupon codes for hundreds of well-known online stores such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Victoria’s Secret, Ann Taylor and Armani Exchange.

CouponCowgirl.com: a sassy, social shopping site that compiles the best online deals, bargains and coupon codes to use towards your favorite products and brands.

Just keep in mind that online discount codes constantly change, so you have to keep scouring the web to get the best deal.

imageComparison Shopping is Key

The best way to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck is to visit comparison-shopping sites such as ShopStyle.com and Glimpse.com before you buy. These sites enable you to search for just about any designer item by name and will instantly tell you how much that particular item costs along with a list of major e-tailers that carry it. This will save you from making costly impulse purchases. Plus, when you haggle at your favorite department store, you can mention you saw those butt-firming Seven jeans for $30 cheaper online and they’ll likely match the price.

image

Look Out for Online Discounts & Luxury “Flash Sale” Sites!

Bargains on runway styles can now be found throughout the country’s major department stores, independent boutiques, online retailers and outlets. Markdowns of fall and winter clothes and accessories are already in full swing! Case in point: discount e-tailers like Bluefly.com are offering current season designer stock with prices reduced as much as 75% off! So rather than wait til’ January to score Theory’s coveted patent leather peep-toe booties at the store (currently $495), Bluefly.com is selling the stunners for $222.99 – that’s more than half off! Even “Flash Sale” sample sites such as Ideeli.com are unloading unsold designer bags from Lanvin and Bulga for half the price. However, due to the time-sensitive nature of flash sales (36 hours or less), you have to act fast to score the stash. Come winter, even Net-A-Porter.com, the cutting-edge designer e-boutique, will be selling leftover luxury goods on their soon-to-be launched discount site, theOutnet.com.

imageAnother must for frugal fashionistas is ShopItToMe.com – a trusty (and free!) virtual shopper that alerts you (via email) when stores put your favorite designer clothing brands on sale in your size.

Lookout for Layaway!
Believe it or not, but layaways, a payment practice that became popular during the Great Depression but dissipated due to the prevalence of credit cards, is suddenly back in fashion thanks to the credit crunch. So the next time you’re at your favorite department store and find yourself drooling over that Diane von Furstenberg sequined vest, it’s worth asking the sales associate if you can put a down payment on the piece (typically 20% of the cost) and bring it home once you’ve paid it off. Just make sure you can cough up the cash before the pre-determined purchase date (typically eight weeks) or you’ll likely be stuck with a store credit.

With a little moxie and some groundwork, it won’t be long ‘til you become a bonafide bargainista. Some final words of wisdom: as with any e-tailer, make sure to check return policies and shipping fees before you buy. Happy shopping!

How do you plan to save money this holiday? Share your shopping strategies with the Fashion Junkie community!

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