Category Archives: Sales & Deals

Treat yo self: Shopping tips from a pro

We all have our guilty pleasures. Whether it’s designer handbags, digital gadgets or daily Starbucks Frappuccinos, we each spend our money in our own way, on things we enjoy.

And as long as you’re sensible about these indulgences, there’s no reason to feel guilty about them.

That was the key message from Angela Koszuta this week, at an event on affordable luxury.

Thanks to her career as a fashion stylist for TV and print, and the writer behind the Toronto Star’s ‘Shop Like A Pro’ column, Koszuta spends much of her time shopping, and so she has plenty of advice to offer when it comes to finding value and scoring deals.

At the event, hosted by Buick Canada, Koszuta outlined some of her top tips for living the good life, guilt-free.

Since I’m personally a fan of sales and deals, I could relate to many of Angela’s tips and tricks for affordable luxury.

Here are five of her tips, and some of my personal insights on why I think they make sense:

  1. Calculate your “price per wear”: A little basic math goes a long way. If that gorgeous leather jacket is $400, but you know you’ll wear it regularly for at least three seasons, it could actually end up costing less, per wear, than that trendy $30 top that you’ll likely wear only once.
  2. Online shopping: This is a bit of an obvious one, but do your research. A quick Google search lets you compare prices at multiple retailers, so you can check whether that dress might be 10% or 20% less at another store, before ringing in the sale.
  3. Outlet shopping: Why pay full price for designer goods when you can find them for as much as 80% off? When it comes to big purchases, it’s often worth the trek to the nearest outlet mall. And the GTA will soon be home to many new outlet options, with the brand new Toronto Premium Outlets opening next month (Bringing bargains closer to home).
  4. Buy timeless pieces: If you’re going to splurge on a designer item, choose one that will serve you well. Avoid spending a lot on a trendy item that will look dated next season; opt for one that you’ll be able to wear for several seasons to come. A high quality handbag in a neutral colour, for example, could last for years.
  5. Loyalty programs: Rewards can add up quickly, and since many loyalty programs are free (Indigo’s Plum Rewards Program, for example – Make room in your wallet for more rewards), there’s really no downside to joining these programs at the retailers you visit regularly.

Bonus tip: Treat yo self. I couldn’t resist using this line from one of my favourite episodes of Parks and Recreation in the title of this post. In the episode, Donna and Tom spend the day splurging on the things they love. Since it’s something they do just once a year, they can justify these luxuries.

treat-yo-self

So, take it from Donna and Tom. Once in a while, go ahead. Treat yo self.

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Filed under Events, Loyalty Programs, Sales & Deals

Bringing bargains closer to home

Outlet shoppers and bargain hunters, brace yourselves: you’ll soon be able to stay far closer to home when shopping your favourite brands.

In a few short months, a shiny new outlet mall will welcome to the GTA a variety of brands that have never before brought their outlet stores to Canada.

Toronto Premium Outlets is slated to open on Aug. 1st in Halton Hills, near Trafalgar Road and the 401.

An artistic rendering of the Toronto Premium Outlets.

An artistic rendering of the Toronto Premium Outlets.

Developed by Simon Property Group and Calloway Real Estate Investment Trust, the new retail hub represents the first Premium Outlet Center to open in Canada.

The upscale outlet mall concept has done well in U.S. markets and abroad, as Simon has continued to expand its roster of more than 300 malls.

Altogether, the mall will boast 85 upscale outlets, with at least eight representing outlet brands that are new to Canada. These include:

  • Cole Haan
  • Columbia Sportswear
  • DKNY
  • Icebreaker
  • Kate Spade New York
  • Polo Ralph Lauren
  • Restoration Hardware
  • Ted Baker London

With easier access to these and other brands, many Toronto-area shoppers may be taking fewer trips to the U.S. once the new shopping hub opens its doors. As a result, outlet malls south of the border may begin to see fewer Canadian shoppers browsing their offerings.

In particular, Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls – a popular destination among Canadians given its close proximity to the border – could see its traffic decline given that many of its retailers will now have Canadian locations.

Whether the merchandise offerings and prices are on par with the U.S. stores, however, remains to be seen.

Some of Toronto Premium Outlets’ other retailers include:

  • Banana Republic
  • Bench
  • Bose
  • Brooks Brothers
  • Coach
  • Dynamite
  • Eddie Bauer
  • Gap Outlet
  • Garage
  • Guess
  • J. Crew
  • Lucky Brand Jeans
  • Michael Kors
  • True Religion
  • Zumiez

In addition, the shopping centre will be anchored by the first ever Hudson’s Bay Outlet – something I’m personally curious to check out. Since The Bay has spent the past few years continuously improving the quality of merchandise it carries, an HBC outlet could be a good place to scoop up some high-end brands at affordable prices.

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Filed under Department Stores & Big Boxes, Sales & Deals, Shopping Hubs

End of an era for Esprit

Toronto’s about to lose a major international clothing retailer. Esprit, the global fashion chain with more than 800 stores around the world, has announced that it plans to close all of its North American stores due to dwindling profits in Canada and the U.S.

Esprit operates 90 directly managed stores in North America. Toronto locations include a store at the Eaton Centre, one at Yorkdale Shopping Centre and one at Sherway Gardens, along with various other locations on the outskirts of the city. Most of them will close in the next week or two.

At a time when many international retail chains are flourishing in Canada, it seems unusual for one of these major chains to be checking out of this country’s retail business entirely.

But clearly, the company hasn’t done a very good job of keeping Canadian shoppers coming back. Same-store sales were down by 7.7% at Canadian Esprit stores in the year ending June 30, 2011. And last week, the company said its profits in the first half of the year were down 74% from last year.

Esprit has been operating in Canada and the U.S. for many years, and I can recall a time when the stores were very popular shopping destinations, especially among teenaged girls. They carried trendy fashions and the aisles of the stores would be bustling with shoppers.

During visits to the mall in the past couple years, however, I’ve noticed far fewer shoppers frequenting Esprit stores.

It’s not too often I find fashions that I personally like at Esprit. And when an item at Esprit does catch my eye, it’s often too pricey for what I consider it to be worth.

In a world where fast-fashion retailers seem to thrive (think H&M, where it’s not uncommon to find trendy tops priced at less than $10), it’s tough for other fashion retailers to stay competitive, unless quality or label status sets them apart.

My guess is, this type of competition proved to be too much for Esprit – at least in North America. The brand seems to be holding up well in Europe and Asia, so Canadian shoppers will still be have access to the brand on travels abroad.

In the meantime, if you’re an Esprit fan, now would be the time to stock up on this company’s clothing. There are currently huge sales at the company’s Canadian stores – to the tune of 70% off all merchandise – as it aims to clear out its remaining merchandise.

But don’t expect any kind of orderly shopping experience. The Esprit location that I recently visited didn’t even have clothes on hangers – what was left of the picked-over merchandise was overflowing out of boxes on tables and on the ground. Some boxes appeared to be labelled – “Men’s Shirts” or “Women’s Size Large”, for example – but most were a messy mishmash of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, along with lingerie. So, bargain hunters, be prepared to truly have to hunt for an Esprit bargain.

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Filed under Clothing Lines, Fashion, Sales & Deals, Store Closures

Another day, another dollar store

A new year has officially kicked off, shoppers, and it’s looking like one that will, once again, be marked by unimpressive economic growth. That’s not great news for retailers. Or, at least, most retailers.

Dollar stores, on the other hand, appear to be doing better than ever.

I blogged about the dollar store phenomenon back in October 2010 (Taking over the world, one dollar at a time), and well over a year later, this discount segment of the retail business simply seems to continue gaining momentum.

Everything for a Dollar Store, a chain with about 80 locations across the country, recently opened two new GTA stores: one in North York Sheridan Mall and one at Cloverdale Mall in Etobicoke. It’s planning additional Toronto-area stores for the year ahead, along with a slew of other new ones across the country.

Other dollar store chains are experiencing similar success, regularly opening new stores and coping with impressively (or, for customers, frustratingly) long lines at existing stores.

The appeal of these stores is hardly surprising.

Just yesterday, I ventured out to Shoppers Drug Mart only to find that the product I needed cost $4.29 – substantially more than I remember paying for the same product a couple months ago. Since I was in the mood for a little comparison shopping, I stopped by Dollarama before making my purchase, and sure enough, I found the same product (in a different brand) for exactly $1.00.

I continue to be baffled at how these companies turn enough of a profit to fuel such impressive growth when their prices are so substantially below those of other retailers.

However they do it,  it certainly seems to be working. And as long as the economy continues to struggle, I suspect dollar stores will continue to enjoy booming growth in business.

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That’s a wrap for Blockbuster

It’s the end of an era.

Blockbuster Canada is officially closing all of its remaining locations – about 250 stores across the country.

The video rental chain closed about 150 of its locations in June (Blockbuster bows out of 12 Toronto neighbourhoods), and hoped a buyer would acquire the rest. But with no offers for the struggling chain, its days are now numbered.

In the past couple of years, Blockbuster has faced declining revenue as consumers increasingly choose digital movies over DVDs.

As the remaining stores wind down operations, shoppers have a chance to score some sweet deals on DVDs. The leftover stock has been marked down in price by 50% to 70%.

But you better hurry: by now, the stores’ DVD collections have likely been thoroughly picked over, and the stores won’t be around much longer.

There are just two locations left in Toronto – one at King and Liberty, and one at Yonge and Cummer, and both will close next Friday, Sept. 30th.

Other locations left in the GTA, including those in Brampton, Richmond Hill, Newmarket, Mississauga and Milton, will close either this Sunday the 25th, or Friday.

Good luck, bargain-hunters!

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Filed under Retail & the Web, Sales & Deals, Store Closures

Bargain hunting? There’s an app for that.

Toronto shoppers, your coupon-clipping days may be over. You’ll now be able to better keep track of nearby sales and promotions, wherever in Toronto you may be.

A new iPhone app and mobile site from Torstar Digital, called ShopCatch, features listings of promotions, sales and exclusive offerings at retailers and malls around the GTA.

The app tracks your location and displays the latest sales at all kinds of retailers nearby. By logging on today, for instance, you’d find out that all new fall merchandise at Danier Leather is now 25% off, and that spring and summer footwear at Browns is up to 70% off, among many other discounts around the city.

The site also connects you with exclusive shopping deals and mobile coupons that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. For example, HMV shoppers could get $10 off a purchase of $60 or more through ShopCatch. Just show the promotional code or coupon to the cashier at the store to redeem the deal.

The app lets you search for stores and categories of merchandise, and features interactive mall maps and store directories to help you find what you’re looking for, whichever mall you’re exploring.

And one of the most useful features, in my opinion, is the ability to ‘follow’ your favourite retailers so that you never miss a sale or promotion.

As much as I enjoy getting the occasional email to alert me of sales at my favourite stores, this type of mobile site proves way more helpful by notifying me of the sales when I’m shopping, wherever I am.

Kudos to Torstar for creating an app that’s likely to come in handy for many Toronto shoppers. I hope the company moves quickly to roll out compatible versions of the ShopCatch app for HTC phones and BlackBerries, too.

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Blockbuster bows out of 12 Toronto neighbourhoods

As of next month, your favourite local video store may disappear from the neighbourhood.

Video chain Blockbuster is buckling under the weight of rapidly growing competition from iTunes, Netflix, Rogers On Demand, and other services that let you “rent” movies and TV shows without having to leave your home.

So last week, it was announced that 146 Canadian Blockbuster stores would shut down this month, leaving about 250 stores still standing. This includes 12 Toronto stores.

The rest of the chain will be put on the market, so there’s a chance that other Blockbuster stores around the city will continue to operate. But given how quickly music has gone digital, perhaps it won’t be long before DVD rentals become a thing of the past.

If you live in one of the following areas, the Blockbuster store in your neighbourhood will be shutting its doors in the weeks ahead. On the bright side, though, you may be able to find some good deals on DVDs at these locations in the weeks ahead.

  • Lakeshore Blvd.
  • Keele & St. Clair
  • Keele & Dundas
  • Bayview & Millwood
  • Shoppers World Danforth
  • Lawrence Avenue West
  • Queen & Woodbine
  • Humbertown Shopping Centre
  • College & Crawford
  • Dupont & Christie
  • Parliament & Winchester
  • St. Clair & Alberta

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Filed under Retail & the Web, Sales & Deals, Shopping Hubs, Store Closures