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Simplify Your Holiday Shopping with Florida In-Store Pickup!

searsblog1 The holidays seem to be busiest time of the year. Between shopping, untangling lights, wrapping (or unwrapping) and baking dozens of cookies, your regular life doesn’t press pause. You can only read so many articles on ‘holiday hacks’ before you realize that unlike the miracle of Santa getting down a chimney, there is no Christmas miracle for making the holidays less busy.

You can, however, find little ways to relieve the stress and smile more. One way I’ve found is using free in store pickup for your holiday shopping. Both Sears and Kmart offer free in store pickup, letting you shop thousands of gifts online in the comfort of your own home before picking up your items in store in 5 minutes guaranteed (or whenever you’re ready).

With in store pickup you’ll avoid lines, busy stores and the wasted time of walking down every aisle. The bow on top: You can have a friend or relative pick up your order and pay in store with cash, if you prefer. Now it’s no question that you should try free in store pickup at Sears or Kmart but there’s now a question of, what will you do with more free time over the holidays?kmartblog1

A few ideas include: volunteering at a shelter, making gingerbread houses with the kids or simply putting your feet up and enjoying the view of the Christmas tree. Learn more at Sears: http://bit.ly/HL896t and Kmart: http://kmrt.us/1bmIoRk

Presented by Mami Innovative Media, this is a sponsored post on behalf of Sears and Kmart. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Where To Buy… Wear To Work Clothing For Less!

Style Context blogger Diane Taha

Style Context blogger Diane Taha

Diane Taha of Style Context shares where to find the best work outfits at the lowest prices…

Hello lovely readers! I’m excited to write a guest post today on Sunshine State Shopping. I know Sunshine from UCF where I attended school and subsequently taught communication. Like Sunshine, I love communication and…shopping, especially for good deals, which is what I’m going to discuss today. As much as I love fashion, I avoid purchasing most things at regular price.

Premium Outlets Orlando

 

That’s why the Orlando Premium Outlets is one of my go-to places to shop for high end brands on a budget. If you’ve ever been to the Orlando Premium Outlets you know how expansive and overwhelming it can feel.

For this post I’m going to focus on the best places to shop for your 9-to-5 workday for top brands on a budget. When it comes to work clothes, the following stores run the gamut of business casual to business professional.

As with most things, I personally prefer to incorporate color into my work wardrobe; even with monochrome, I’ll insist on adding a pop of color to brighten an outfit. These stores are great for finding colorful work wear that puts standard office attire to shame.

1. BCBG Max Azria

If you’re looking for pencil skirts, trousers, ruffled blouses, or a sweater dress (hey, it gets chilly in Florida between December-February), this is your go-to store for catching up on the classics, basics, and trends.

2. Elie Tahari

I have yet to find another brand that consistently designs affordable, flattering sheath dresses for the everyday career woman. The sheath dress is a fun, efficient alternative to other work wear outfits.

banana13. J. Crew

By far my most favorite thing about J.Crew is jewelry, which is strange considering it’s not a jewelry store. This is where I like to scope out the latest statement necklaces to add to my wardrobe. I like to go for a piece that will adds a pop of color to my wardrobe or that is versatile enough to complement most outfits.

southoutlet1144. Tory Burch

Tory Burch is most famously known for her Reva ballet flat, but one thing I always find myself coveting when I’m in the store are the immaculate collarless tweed jackets that come in multiple colors. The jackets are a refreshing, feminine alternative to the conventional lapel blazers that roam the workplace.

5. Diane von Furstenberg

You may be familiar with Diane von Furstenberg for her quintessential wrap dress that revolutionized the way women dressed in the office in the 1970s. The wrap dress is still a staple today, and while it is more comfortable than the sheath dress, it’s no less professional or chic.

Where are your favorite places to shop for high end work clothes on a budget? Let me know in the comments or catch up with me on Style Context where I blog about fashion, beauty, and blogging tips. You can also tweet me on Twitter.

My Designer Discount Shopping Florida Fave: Ross Dress For Less!

Readers of my blog know that I can’t stand paying full price.  My policy is that an item must be on sale for 75% to 90% off retail for me to purchase it.  I often shop at malls and check out the department stores and boutiques to try on the latest fashions, but I only buy at a mall when there’s a BIG sale.  My favorite kinds of sales are when stores offer an additional % off already marked down prices.

That kind of sale is hard to find at a mall, so I do most of my shopping at off-price stores like Marshalls, TJMaxx, and my favorite, Ross Dress for Less.  We have LOTS Of Ross stores here in Florida, and they’ve been opening up a lot of new stores lately.  They’re usually found in strip malls next to major shopping malls, and are always worth the trip. Want to see what kinds of awesome things you can find at Ross?  All of these photos show my family and me wearing or using items that I purchased at Ross over the years.

I’ve found that prices at Ross are usually at least 10% cheaper for the same items compared to Marshalls and TJMaxx.  Ross is my go-to for things like undershirts, dress shirts, and ties for my husband.  I also learned from a good friend of mine who is a professional chef that Ross has the highest quality housewares of the off-price stores.  She’s right- after she told me that I started looking and have found lots of nice pieces for baking, cooking, and entertaining from major companies at miniscule prices.

But let’s be honest- what keeps me coming to Ross is two things that I LOVE to shop for:  shoes and dresses.  The shoe selection is incredible, with super-low prices that make a pair of new shoes feel less like a splurge and more like a smart decision.  I find at least 50% of the dresses I wear on a daily basis to teach at the university at Ross.  They have lots of high quality designer sheath dresses and beautiful fun summery dresses that are perfect for Florida.  I always check the Clearance rack and have found amazing dresses there for under $10.  I love the treasure hunt shopping aspect of Ross, and now I’d like to share it with my readers by giving away a $25 Ross gift card!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck readers! I look forward to announcing the winner and sending their prize!  PLEASE NOTE:  I received a $25 gift card for myself and for the contest winner from Ross Dress For Less.

Vero Beach Outlets: A Surprising Shopportunity For South Florida Travelers!

Outlets In Vero Beach, FloridaDriving down I-95, you’ll see all kinds of signs for ‘outlet’ centers. Many of these are just little strip mall shops with some discounted junk, and are definitely not worth stopping for. But Vero Beach outlets are a different story… this pretty, open-air outlet mall has  gotten much better over time and is now worth a trip on its own.

Just about halfway between the shopping meccas of Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale, Vero Beach is the perfect place to get your discount designer shopping fix. It’s small, easy to get around, and just minutes from I-95, so it’s easy to check out all of the bargains.

Ladies clothing, handbags and accessories are your best bet at this center, with a lot of great stores packed in next to each other. I’ve found some great deals at the jumbo-sized Ralph Lauren outlet here, and the Tommy Hilfiger outlet is always worth a look. The BCBG Factory Store offers some major markdowns, just look for the fixed-price racks where you’ll find deals like cocktail dresses for $29.

The Dooney and Bourke outlet is a great source for well-made leather handbags. They run some really great sales throughout the year, sometimes around the holidays everything is an extra 50% off. When you’re in the store, sign up for their email newsletter, they send updates so you’ll always know what’s on sale.

The ever-popular Coach outlet store is a new addition to this center. They often hand out extra discount coupons when you come in the door, so make sure to get one! They offer Factory exclusive merchandise, which has an F before the numbers on the tags, and front-line store merchandise, which has no F on the tag. If you want the top quality items like you see in department stores, look for the tags without an F.

Chico’s is a great source for travel clothing, and they have some really cool jewelry too. Their sister store, SOMA, has amazingly comfortable and well-made lingerie and sleepwear. I always find great gifts on their $9.99 rack, and their silk nightgowns are especially nice.

Next time you’re headed down I-95 in Florida, make a pit-stop at Vero Beach Outlets, and let me know how you like it!

Sawgrass Mills Outlet: The Ultimate Florida Mall For Bargain-Hunters!

YOUR FLORIDA BARGAIN-SHOPPING MECCA

Oasis Sawgrass Mills OutletsWhen it’s time for some serious shopping in Florida, your best bet is to head down south to the biggest of all Florida outlets, Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall. Even for expert power-shoppers, shopping this entire mall will probably take an entire day or two. This gigantic shopping center near Ft. Lauderdale is like 4 malls in one. In addition to the outlet mall staples like Coach, you’ll find designer stores you won’t see anywhere else. Plus there are more than 8 HUGE anchor stores with a wide variety of deals in every price range.

Plus, Sawgrass Mills offers a fun, pretty atmosphere, so it’s a great place to spend a day. You’ll want to check out the cool alligators near the Colonnade mall entry, all painted by artists in funky Florida themes. I couldn’t resist this Wonder Woman one, made me feel like the Superhero of Shopping!

Make sure you’re getting a real deal by checking the retail price on everything you buy. 50% off retail is not a great deal. 75% to 90% off is what you’re looking to pay. To do this, look for stacked discounts, such as an EXTRA 50% off the lowest marked price. If you see a sign that says “UP TO 20% OFF” or something like that, don’t waste your time. It’s also a great idea to check out flat-priced racks. Many stores have $9.99 racks, and they sometimes hold items with very high values, so you can easily score a 90% off deal there. Here’s a guide to my favorite stores at Sawgrass Mills for finding the best markdowns.

BLOOMINGDALES OUTLET

This is a new addition to Sawgrass Mills, and the deals are smokin’ hot! They keep all of the clearance items together, which makes it really easy to shop the best markdowns. When I visited, they had a number of clearance racks with 40% to 60% off the lowest prices. I found cashmere cardigans for under $20, and high-end men’s leather boots for under $60. This is a REAL outlet store, with true designer merchandise, and it’s definitely worth a visit.

NORDSTROM RACK

There are many great deals to be had at this store, which is in the new Oasis section of the mall. The clearance racks are always worth a look, since they just keep marking things down until they sell. Nordstrom Rack is an especially good place to shop for shoes, because they carry extended sizes (up to men’s 20 and women’s 13!) and they mark them down to ridiculously low prices. I found a pair of men’s leather boots on my most recent visit for $25, and the dress rack never disappoints, with a good mix of cocktail and work-ready designs.

OFF FIFTH SAKS FIFTH AVENUE

Just skip all of the displays in the front and head straight for the clearance racks, the best ones are straight back near the children’s section. There’s always a huge selection of women’s clothing, handbags, and shoes here, and all clearance is usually an extra 50% off. This is also one of the few stores where you can find plus size designer clothing on clearance, and the deals on swimwear are very good.

MARSHALLS

I love shopping at Marshalls all over Florida, and this is the best one of all. It’s the size of a Wal-Mart, about four times bigger than your usual Marshalls, so it has MORE of everything! The deals are great in every department, they have tons of shoes, handbags, menswear and ladies clothing. Look for the yellow clearance stickers for the best markdowns anywhere.

NEIMAN MARCUS

The sales here are hit-or-miss, but it can be a great bet for major designer pieces at decent discounts. Check out the racks with the dots on top, and look for stickered clearance items to find the best deals. Designer denim, evening gowns, and handbags are the departments where I’ve found the best markdowns at this location, so it’s always worth checking out to see what their current offers are.

COLONNADE DESIGNER STORES

There are some super-luxury stores at Sawgrass Mills in the new Colonnade section. This is where you’ll find the Prada outlet, Tory Burch, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, and the like. For designer jewelry, they have David Yurman, Damiani, Tag Heuer and Judith Ripka. The Judith Ripka store offers some stunning pieces at 75% off, and I’ve made some great buys there. This is a lovely open-air area to shop, but in my experience the markdowns are not all that great. If you’re a collector of one of these brands, you may find some pieces at about 50% off, but for regular bargain shoppers, it’s probably more of a window-shopping destination.

AMAZING DINING CHOICES!

Sawgrass Mills Outlet is worth a visit just for the food. In addition to the usual food-court fare, they have some beautiful restaurants serving gourmet meals. It’s so nice to take a break from a full day of shopping in a lovely place like Grand Lux Cafe. This is my favorite Sawgrass restaurant, they have an expansive menu and everything is just delicious. Make sure to save room for their custardy, sugar-dusted beignets with three dipping sauces. I do think that was the best dessert experience I’ve ever had!

YOUR BEST BET FOR FLORIDA SHOPPING DEALS

Tourists visiting from out of the country often shop Florida outlets to get the best bargains. If you only have time to shop one of Florida’s outlet centers, I recommend you choose this one. You’re guaranteed to find everything you’re looking for, and if you shop smart, you can load up your suitcases with designer bargains at a tiny fraction of retail prices.  Just follow my shopping tips to bring home the best designer deals!

Black Friday 2011: Florida Outlet Shopping Tips For The Day After Thanksgiving

As a professional shopper, I have spent the last 8 Black Fridays at various outlet malls across the state of Florida, with varying degrees of bargain-hunting success. Shopping an outlet mall on Black Friday can be a great opportunity to score big discounts, but it can also be an exhausting, fruitless wild goose chase. Here are some of my best tips to make your holiday shopping experience worth your while.

SCOPE IT OUT FIRST

If you’re planning to shop at a Florida outlet mall on Black Friday, I highly recommend that you visit it first. Get the lay of the land, and find out where the stores are that you want to shop at, so you can try to park nearby. Check out the merchandise at your favorite stores to get a feel for what the normal markdown levels are.  A lot of outlet stores offer the same deals on Black Friday as any other day, so it may not be worth waiting in line for hours.  You should also get on the mailing list for any store you’re really interested in. Usually they’ll sign you up for it at the register when you check out. I’ve done this for all of my favorite stores, so I always get lots of great coupons in my email and mailbox.

KNOW THE REAL DEALS

I’ve found that many times the day-after-Thanksgiving discounts are just about a 10% improvement over the usual outlet deals. The big difference on Black Friday is that stores often are really well stocked with new, exciting merchandise. Coach Factory stores are an example of this, their Black Friday markdowns are usually the same as always.  There are usually hour-long waits just to get into the Coach Factory stores on Black Friday, but they often have new arrivals direct from the front-line stores which are better than the usual outlet-exclusive merchandise.  Come before Black Friday, tour the mall, identify your target stores and map out a plan of attack for the big day.

DON’T BE A DOORBUSTER

Most outlet malls, including the Premium Outlets chain, will open at midnight on Thanksgiving night. I’ve done the midnight thing, and I don’t recommend it. The parking lots and stores get flooded with people, and you’ll probably spend about two hours circling in the lot to get a parking space.  Not fun at all. My rule of thumb is to arrive 3 hours after the mall opens. That way, the first batch of people will be done shopping, and their parking spaces will be available!  There’s really no need to arrive right when the mall opens.  Most of the sales go on all day, or at least until noon on Black Friday.  The stores restock throughout the night and day, so you really won’t miss out on anything by not being first in line.

COME PREPARED

It’s going to be crowded and exhausting, and you’re probably going to have to park REALLY far away from the stores. Plus, it’s dark outside, so there’s really no need to wear fabulous shoes.  If there’s any occasion that calls for comfortable footwear, this is it!  You may also want to bring a baby stroller or wheeled luggage to carry your finds so you don’t have to waste time walking your shopping bags back to the car over and over.  When you first get to the mall, pick up a Black Friday sale flyer, usually displayed at the entrances and map stands. This will show you what kinds of deals the stores are offering and when the specials end, so that you can prioritize your shopping time.

PICK THE BEST ONE

I’ve done Black Friday at every outlet mall in Florida. If you have a choice of where to go, and you want some serious bargains, my favorite Black Friday outlet mall in Florida is the Silver Sands in Destin.  This Florida panhandle town is off-season in the fall, so the crowds are much lighter than the usual suspects in Orlando, Ft. Myers, Sarasota and Miami.  The deals are better too, since the fall merchandise doesn’t sell as quickly, so it has a chance to get marked down much further. The Off Fifth Saks Fifth Avenue at this mall is amazing. Every time I’ve shopped there, I’ve found incredible markdowns on major designer pieces. Orlando’s two Premium Outlets, the Vineland and International Drive locations, offer some great deals, but the crowds are always really overwhelming.

HAVE FUN!

Remember, you don’t have to get all of your holiday shopping done all in one day.  There will be great deals all throughout the month of December, sometimes even better than Black Friday. If you focus on picking up a few amazing deals at the stores that are offering truly special discounts, you can return home triumphant and return to shop another day! Scope it out, make a plan, come prepared, and enjoy the shopportunity- I’ll see you there!