Archive for the ‘shopping’ Category

I love Manhattan — and living in Manhattan — you can really find everything you could ever want in the city. Problem is, it takes a hell of a lot of money to get there! I have taken some time off to buy furniture for my newly renovated place – no easy feat in Manhattan! I don’t have a single piece of furniture except for some chairs, and a tiny entertainment center. Wires are all over the floor, and I want to find something functional that keeps wires hidden.

I decided to conquer Manhattan. There are three main buildings to visit for remodeling and redecorating – Architects & Designers Building (A&D) on 58th & Lex, Decoration & Design Building (D&D) on 58th & 3rd, and New York Design Center (NYDC) on 33rd & Lex.

D&D and NYDC sell to trade only, and entry is restricted. Last year I was not allowed to enter. This year, I took my architect’s company name and entered the building. None of the stores shared prices – they said I should select pieces and leave my architect/designer’s contact info, and they would send prices to her. A lot of designers make money from them because they (designers) mark-up the prices – even if they don’t mark it up, in some cases shipping & handling charges wipe out the discount.

A&D: The building is primarily for people looking to remodel and can find appliances, tiles, shower enclosures, bathroom fixtures, closet organization, kitchens, and cabinets. The building houses brands such as GE Monogram, Miele, Wolf & Sub-Zero, Davis & Warshow, Woodmode, Hastings Tile & Bath, Poliform, Poggenpohl, Valli & Valli, and Artistic Tile. It also has furniture stores such as B&B Italia and Holly Hunt on the first level. I love Holly Hunt, but my architect has warned me of their prices – not as high as Cassina, but much much higher than Crate & Barrel.

D&D: The building is primarily for people who have tons of $$$ and looking to do custom work such as custom upholstery, curtains, and rugs. D&D mostly houses showrooms with textiles and fabrics. High-end Donghia and Holly Hunt are housed there. The Holly Hunt furniture in D&D is very different from the one a block away in A&D – D&D has a lot of traditional furniture stores so Holly Hunt has traditional pieces there, while its A&D store has very contemporary pieces. For contemporary furniture, a few of my favorite showrooms were A. Rudin, Donghia, Kravet, J. Robert Scott, Stark, and Missoni Home. David Sutherland was mostly outdoor furniture, but the decor of the store was excellent. It had seagrass limestone tiles, and as soon as you enter you feel as if you can smell the sea or beach, and the limestone tile with exotic sea shells added to the look. A. Rudin had the softest leather furniture – a few pieces were made of lambskin leather which had the softest feel, and I felt as if my fingers would melt in the buttery feeling. Stark had very good carpets of all kinds – contemporary, transitional, and oriental. I enjoyed visiting D&D but was very overwhelmed due to the numerous stores and fabrics. It is very difficult to pick colors and fabrics unless you go there with a designer. Not that I intend to return – the prices are too high.

NYDC: The building mainly houses furniture and rugs, with some lighting and home decor stores as well. The furniture is both traditional and contemporary, with more contemporary stores contrary to D&D. A number of showrooms specialize in contract furniture for offices. Some stores seemed sterile with few people and furniture lying around as if deserted. I wanted to check out Nicoletti Italia for Natuzzi sofas but it closed down a few months back (Natuzzi needs to update its site). I liked a number of stores including Dennis Miller Associates, and need to return because I tried to do all 16 floors in 1 hour!! I really liked some contemporary furniture, and need to go back to complete all the floors. It is good to visit NYDC because they have many furniture stores, which gives a good idea of how to redecorate and which colors to use together if you are looking for ideas.

I visited a few stand alone stores as well. Cassina is a high-end Italian furniture store, and has great sofas and chairs. A friend had bought something from there but told me of their ridiculously high prices. I liked one leather chair and it cost over $6.3K!!! They have an annual sale event every year, and this year they have it on Sep 24. I will wait for sale. Lazzoni is a contemporary furniture store located on 18th St. I liked their beds and mirrors, but it was very expensive. A simple side table cost over $1.5K. The furniture comes from Turkey, and at this time people in Turkey were on a 1 month holiday so usual lead time of 4-6 weeks is now 16 weeks! Roche Bobois is located on Madison Avenue a few blocks from the NYDC building. It is a French company and has very good beds and coffee tables. I really liked the furniture, but it costs $$$$$! Coffee tables cost around $3K, and each dining chair is around $1K. Eight years back I bought my coffee table for $200, and it is still intact today!

Jensen Lewis in West Village has good quality furniture. I liked their Calligaris beds, dining tables, chairs, and entertainment centers. Their walnut wood pieces have a warm feel and combined with black lend a very contemporary look. If they weren’t so expensive, I would have bought the entire Calligaris walnut set. Modani on 19th St is okay, with nothing new to offer. The showroom has a black-and-white feel and few pieces. I visited B&B Italia in Soho and in the A&D building. The A&D store is much better with a larger collection, but is open on weekdays only while the Soho store is open on weekends as well.

ABC Home & Carpet on Broadway & 19th St is a large store of 6 floors, and has a Calvin Klein section. It is super expensive, more so considering that the pieces were not that good or new. One recycled bar stool cost around $800. A Calvin Klein sectional sofa cost $18K. AM almost had a heart attack and looked for pieces to criticize specifically with respect to their prices. We walked across the street to Sitdown NY which had decent pieces but looked very cheap. After ABC, AM found the prices to be quite refreshing! Moss is another store in Soho, but specializes in novelty pieces. Not my style. I visited Raymour & Flanigan, but it is too traditional for my taste. There are so many traditional and barn-like furniture stores in NYC, which I found surprising because I thought New Yorkers like contemporary furniture – guess I was wrong. I like all things European.

Bo Concept is another store I quite liked. It has very good and sleek contemporary pieces, but the quality does not seem up to par with Crate and Barrel even though prices are comparable. I am having second thoughts about getting a Bo Concept walnut bed set because its nightstand costs over $500. Its so ridiculous that two nightstands at $1K cost more than the bed at $900! I mean, why is the nightstand so expensive even though its such a tiny thing? Of all the stores, Crate and Barrel has the best quality for the price. West Elm seems okay with reasonable prices. Design Within Reach is another store I visited, but am not too crazy about the quality. Its red Eames chair has appeared in several blogs and is comfortable, but very low. AM did not like it.

I have to yet visit department stores such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. I don’t have high hopes though, because Home is not their specialty. Since we liked Natuzzi sofas, I plan to visit Natuzzi in Soho. I also plan to make a trip to Calligaris and Concept Furniture in Brooklyn, and Room and Board in Soho.

I also made a trip to Paramus, NJ. I visited Ashley furniture, Huffman Koos, Jennifer Convertible, and Ethan Allen in Paramus. Ashley has very traditional furniture, totally not my style. Their rugs were not bad though. Jennifer Convertible was okay, and Google had bad reviews about the quality. I loved Huffman Koos – they had lots of Natuzzi sofas on sale, and it was a good deal because you could get the entire floor model set for $1,200. AM was sold on Natuzzi. I love burgundy and fell in love with a burgundy sofa, but it was being discontinued and I would have to buy the floor model. I found out yesterday that there is a Huffman Koos in Manhattan – yay! Ethan Allen was too country-like and traditional.

I did not go to Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware because they are too barn/coastal looking and not my style.

I am exhausted and cannot wait to get this over with. Its so difficult to make a decision – every contemporary store has a white sofa – how do you decide which one is the best? Once I decide on furniture, I will make a decision on rugs. Most of the showrooms featured neutral colors like beige, cream, brown, and white, with neutral contemporary rugs and low mood lighting. I intend to do simple neutral furniture and have a colorful oriental rug with Indian/Pakistani/Turkish colors and dark base. I love oriental rugs, and although I liked neutral contemporary rugs I think a splash of color would make it look less sterile.

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You would think that with renovation done and having moved into my new place would mean peace of mind. Quite the contrary. I am finding so many errors, and took the day off today to discuss details of errors with my contractor and run errands. I don’t know how to connect speakers into the wall and found someone in my building who will do it for an hourly fee. I had so many more errands to run, and am taking time off to buy furniture. Buying furniture is no easy feat — which places in NY sell contemporary stuff? Very few. Crate and Barrel, West Elm, and Bo Concept are common. I read reviews and went to places such as Moss and Cassina – Moss had novelty one-of-a-kind pieces (at one-of-a-kind prices), and Cassina had gorgeous Italian-made leather furniture with skyrocketing prices. AM liked one leather chair which cost OVER $6,300!!! Seriously! Ridiculous prices! How come they are still in business? No piece of furniture is worth that much.

So yeah buying furniture is no easy feat because there are very few places in the city. There are small boutique-type places but they must be pricey. Sigh!

Anyway, I was done with my errands by 3 pm, and decided to watch Twilight Eclipse. I watched previous parts on Amazon On Demand and liked the movies. This one I watched in the theater and it was so boring. The entire movie is focused on the love triangle between Edward the vampire, Jacob the werewolf, and Bella who loves both of them but loves Edward more. I tried reading the book, but the book was so much worse. The entire book just had conversations between Bella and Edward, silly conversations. I could not even read half the book. The movies are much better because of the action sequences which I love. But Eclipse was so boring, and I did not see the chemistry between Bella and Jacob – her love for him was so out of the blue. Kristen Stewart is so wooden and dull. Her tone is bla, and whether she is happy or sad or in love, she has the same tone. I could not bear to watch or listen to her. I don’t understand how two awesome guys can be in love with the bark of the tree — really — she is just so yawn. I also don’t get that she was all about Edward and now all of a sudden she wants to spend more time with Jacob. It seems like she is double-dating and expects Edward to be okay with it. Argh! I kept thinking, when is this movie going to get over?

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I saw several blog posts about Chanel’s “Le Vernis Black Velvet” nail polish. It is a gorgeous color, and if you go to Chanel’s Makeup page, the model is wearing the nail polish. It is PERFECT for Fall!! It looks absolutely gorgeous, and Chanel is minting money off of it. It costs $25!! Essie bottles usually do not cost more than $6, and this is $25 for a small bottle of nail polish! No wonder Chanel’s PR team is on it – they can clearly pay for the team!

I first came across the color on nymag.com. Blogdorf Goodman has also written about it, but the nail polish in their photos is messy and looks terrible.

Recent studies show an increase in the sale of nail polishes. Due to recession, people did not go to mani-pedi places as frequently and preferred to do it at home, which increased the sale of nail polishes. Essie and Opi are the most commonly seen nail polishes in salons. A few months back, Essie was acquired by L’Oreal. Sephora has come out with its own collection in partnership with Opi, and you can get very tiny bottles from Sephora.

In Spring, Chanel came out with the Jade nail polish which became a top seller. Its insane because people were selling it on eBay for $100!! It’s so contradictory! Sales of nail polishes increased because people cut down on salon visits, and there were some who were willing to pay $100 for a small bottle of nail polish! Really, Jade was not that good. You could easily replace it with MAC’s green color with 3 coats.

Anyway, I am off to buy the Chanel Black Velvet nail polish because I really really like it. This will be the most expensive nail polish I have ever owned. It better stay fresh for at least one year or so.

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Every year I review top fashion blogs to understand the inns and outs of the industry, and which bloggers we should partner with. Here is a comprehensive list. I think the list is by Imran Ahmed, although it does not specify. Imran Ahmen is the Editor of an influential fashion blog the Business of Fashion and Luxury Society. He gave a session at the WWD Social Media summit in NY that I attended. A smart guy who graduated from Harvard Uni. He gave some key insights into how to reach bloggers, the challenges they face with the volume of communication they receive, and the best way to catch bloggers’ attention.

On a regular basis it is very difficult to read all key fashion blogs. Go Fug Yourself is my favorite blog – it used to be #1, but it is #6 on this list. The Budget Fashionista is a good blog for best deals. So many blogs write about “seen in the city”, celebrities, and high fashion, but this one focuses on budget styles and deals. Fab Sugar focuses primarily on celebrities, and its sister-site ShopStyle is an affiliate and performs extremely well. The site is well geared for SEO and shows up on the first page of Google for most fashion categories.

I met bloggers from The Budget Fashionista, Coutorture, and Nitrolicious, among others, when they came for our “sneak peek” event. I have seen key blogs link to Nitrolicious, and the blogger left her full-time job sometime in 2008 to attend events and blog full-time.

I love the name “Blogdorf Goodman” – its just so clever! Bergdorf Goodman should pay that blogger a lot of money and take ownership of the blog – or better still hire the blogger – its just too perfect a name to pass up. BTW if you type in http://www.blogdorfgoodman.com, it redirects to Bergdorf Goodman – again clever on BG’s part.

My favorite source of fashion news is Nymag.com. I subscribe to their emails and read them religiously. I don’t visit the site, just click through emails. It is a great source of information on the fashion industry, models, magazine gossip, and all the ins and outs.

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Ideeli recently launched IdeeliAccess which gives Ideeli members handpicked deals and offers that are localized. The deal features a significant reduction in prices, and becomes active only if enough people sign up for it.

It is currently running a deal for Spa Chakra where you can get a spa service for 90 minutes at 67% off! Regular price is $337, deal price is $109. This is an excellent deal! I have been to Spa Chakra on Fifth through a deal I purchased on Haute Look, but it was not this good! There is a condition though. Enough people have to sign up for the deal to be a “go”. So if you want the deal to work, you can ask your friends to sign up. Once the spa meets its minimum number, the deal is valid. How awesome is that! I love these invitation-based sites – since they are e-com only, they go all out and do the most creative things.

I also checked out Gilt and Rue La La‘s iPhone apps. They are easy to use and quite nice, but I cannot fathom buying through iPhone. I like to look at products in zoom version, and the phone is too small to get an idea of the product’s look and feel. People do buy using the app – I am not there yet. Both apps are very similar – you can organize products in list or grid form. The only issue is that it takes a while for the pages to load, and by the time you go back and forth and check out all the sales, some may go out of stock. Its so much easier on the computer where I open one tab for each brand and browse away.

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I bought my first pair of shoes online, and am addicted to online shopping. Imagine shopping from the comfort of your home – no dealing with crowds, waiting outside fitting rooms, annoying salespeople, transportation, etc. I have 8 boxes sitting in my living room. I ordered so many pairs in different sizes because I wasn’t sure what would work best – this is the first time ordering shoes online and comfort is so important!

I ordered from Zappos, Piperlime, and Naturalizer. Zappos is awesome – they have a VIP promo where if you sign up for it you get next day free delivery of the shoes. I order at night and by the time I get home the next day, I have new pairs of shoes waiting for me! I like Piperlime’s website the best though. But I got way better deals from Naturalizer. They had a 20% off promo, plus I got a coupon code for 15% off, plus free shipping till Dec 25. I saved $40+!! I ordered from Zappos and Piperlime, tried out the shoes, purchased directly from Naturalizer for the lower price and planned to keep the ones from Naturalizer due to the lower price. But I ended up keeping the ones from Zappos because they had the right fit. Zappos has the most collection but doesn’t do discounts.

I really like Naturalizer shoes – they are comfortable, seem durable, and have great reviews. Now I need to send all extra boxes back — for free! Zappos and Piperlime do free shipping free returns, and I can return Naturalizer in their stores.

Maybe in time I will start shopping for clothes online too. My fav store Nordstrom is now opening in NYC, I am excited! I don’t have to go to New Jersey now.

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Black Friday

After a lot of pent up demand, people are buying, and buying like crazy. Retail sales are back up, and holiday looks promising. But I think people are buying earlier rather than later, and its just a shift in sales from Dec to Nov, not an increase in sales from last year. Every night after midnight I await the numbers and look into each vendor’s interface. There are always problems with some partner or the other – always problems. No matter how much you plan for the biggest day of the year, things can go wrong. A partner’s site crawler is not working so their sales are down, and I have to email them to make sure everything is in order fast. Emails go back and forth during weekends to make sure everything is working. Its exciting to have a good holiday. We plan and plan for this time. After a VERY tough year, I hope to make my numbers.

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when stores expect a big rush of people looking to buy Christmas presents. Electronics and toys have the highest demand – everyone wants to buy before they go out of stock or show up on ebay at a higher price. The hottest toy this year is a $10 hamster that runs or crawls or something.

The biggest day for e-commerce is Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving when people come to work and shop. Yeah people shop and its widely accepted. Retailers time their deals around this week, because this week determines how good or bad holiday is/will be. There is such a mad rush in stores, and online IT works hard to keep the site from going down due to the traffic. This year many stores like Walmart opened at midnight on Thanksgiving to keep traffic manageable. Last year a Walmart employee was injured and died in a stampede on Black Friday, so they had to plan well this year. Its absolute madness! I cannot wait to see what sales will look like on Monday – will people buy more then?? Last year it was a big big day for me, not sure this year because people are already buying tons.

I went to Nordstrom today — my fav fav store — it wasn’t that busy. It was annoying to have so many salespeople come and offer to help. After one person came to me thrice, I ignored her and told her if I need help I will ask her. Do they get a commission or something? One salesperson held the clothes at the counter instead of leaving it outside the fitting room like they usually do, because she wanted to ring me up at the counter. Definitely commission. I didn’t see any Black Friday deals though, but did find some good stuff.

In my company, I got leggings for $5!!! Ha, $5, without my associate discount. You gotta love my company – the best prices!!

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