Department stores

Neiman’s Last Call preview sale starts today

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

The official first day of Neiman Marcus’ Last Call sale isn’t until July 15, but markdowns were taken today. Most of the items are now discounted 65 percent, except for Gift Gallery items marked down 50 percent. In the past, Neiman’s has occasionally taken an additional 30 percent off all clearance items, but that’s usually after the first markdown. Today’s was the 2nd markdown.

Will there be another markdown before the stuff leaves the store? In a normal economy, no, but in these times, there is a slight chance. If you don’t want to pay $200 for the Stephano Ricci crystal-embedded tuxedo tie after the discount (and who does?), you might want to watch for an additional markdown. I’m not exaggerating–I saw several tuxedo ties today priced more than $500 before the discount.

Did Neiman’s change or did I? Even at 65 percent off, it was difficult finding a shirt or pair of pants for less than $100 on clearance. Any other Neiman’s shoppers feeling you’ve been priced out of the store?

Get in line for free cosmetics Tuesday

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Why do cosmetics never go on sale? It’s a question that nine women took to federal court in California in 1998. Their suit accused manufacturers of setting a suggested retail price in their contracts with department stores, while prohibiting discounts. In return, cosmetics companies guaranteed a 40 percent margin on the products as well as paying salaries of salespeople and supplying store displays.

More than a decade later, consumers everywhere can benefit from the settlement of the class action lawsuit. Starting Tuesday, January 20, department stores nationwide will be giving away cosmetics worth $175 million. The sale lasts a week on a first-come, first-served basis, but Bloomingdale’s in Bloomington expects the freebies to be gone within a day or a day and a half. Anyone who purchased cosmetics between May 1994 and July 2003 is eligible to take part. Consumers must sign a form declaring that they purchased products during that period. Will there be anyone checking to see if you received more than one freebie? Only you and Estee Lauder, God rest her smelly soul, will know. 

More than 14 department stores will be participating in the giveaway, including Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s, Herberger’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Younkers. The list of freebies includes perfume by Boucheron, Christian Dior and Guerlin, body lotion by Clarins, Chanel, Vera Wang and Calvin Klein, shower gel by Sarah Jessica Parker, Lancome, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren, Advanced Night Repair by Estee Lauder, Moisture Surge by Clinique and mascara by Lancome. The freebies are larger than “sample” sizes. Although they were created specifically for the giveaway, the value placed on each is supposed to be between $15 and $23, according to the settlement.

Bloomingdale’s plans to set up six tables with signs above each to indicate the products available at that desk. The Mall of America store received as few as 20 of some products and more than 100 of others. Supplies will vary among department stores, with stores distributing goods that they ordinarily sell. Macy’s spokeswoman Sharon Bateman indicated that the supplies were created specifically for the giveaway, not taken from the stores’ regular inventory. Blooming­dale’s expects supplies of Estee Lauder, Clinique and Lancome to go first.

The retailers have claimed no wrongdoing in the settlement, which probably explains why nothing has changed. Cosmetics still never go on sale. The best you can hope for is a freebie with a purchase, and now the minimum purchase is often $75 or $100. I’ll bet there will be many “free with purchase” offers while us  “plaintiffs” pick up our “settlements.”

Herberger’s Goodwill sale

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Why is Herberger’s Goodwill sale a cut above other department store sales? It’s a great way to get a discount on items that never go on sale, including cosmetics, certain designer brands and electronics. Sure, there are a few exceptions but not like Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s coupons with 20 or so brands and designer exclusions.
Donate any clean, gently used clothing or home textiles and receive coupons toward purchase of new items. Receive one coupon per item good for 20 percent off any item except electronics, furniture, luggage, mattresses, rugs, small electrics, cosmetics and Tech Trek, which get a 10 or 15 percent discount. The coupons may not be used on clearance or Incredible Values items. Donated items benefit Goodwill/Easter Seals programs in Minnesota. For store locations, go to The sale continues through Sept. 22.