Blackbird Kid Shop going out at half-off

The Missoula Independent and Mamalode (via Facebook) are reporting that Missoula’s Blackbird Kids Shop is selling off everything – down to the hangers and shelves – at a deep 50 percent discount before closing its doors for good.

There’s no word yet on what the expected closure date is, but the retail store has been in business for about three years, offering the cutest locally made kids’ clothes you ever did see among its array of child-friendly items.

According to the Independent blog, store owners cite the ongoing economic slump as the No. 1 reason for the closure.

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BBB has back-to-school shopping tips for parents and students

Less than one month to go before school starts! And I’m already more nervous and excited than my soon-to-be first-grader.

The way she’s growing, we’ll be waiting until the last minute before we do any back-to-school clothes shopping. In the meantime, our regional Better Business Bureau is sending out five tips and other advice geared toward back-to-school shopping parents and older students – such as those in the market for computers and credit cards.

The tips include asking about refunds and returns, asking about restocking fees, carefully vetting businesses and their deals, being a smart online shopper and keeping all items in their original boxes. Check out the tips in detail, as well as more information, here.

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Fear of layoffs a factor in back-to-school shopping outlook this year

In theory I subscribe to the needs-over-wants attitude toward back-to-school shopping. But when that list of must-have school supplies landed in our mailbox a while back, I have to admit, the thought of buying a brand-new box of crayons and new glue made me smile.

Back to school already? But there are still almost two months to go before the first day of school on August 29!

Nevertheless, the National Retail Federation is preparing to release its latest survey results, which focus on parent expectations on their back-to-school shopping needs.

Back-to-school shoppers are expected to be a little more practical-minded this year, according to NRF partner BIGresearch. The survey results showed that nearly half the respondents report being more practical shoppers already.

And more than 25 percent of respondents said they fear that more job layoffs are coming – which goes hand-in-hand with the one-third of respondents who say they are focusing their financial activities on paying down debt, leading to a decrease in spending.

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Start your Mother’s Day early at the annual Mother’s Day Eve Bash in Missoula!

Sick of Mother’s Day stuff yet? Nah, neither am I.

I continue to dip my attention into the constant stream of Mother’s Day retail trends, and come back dripping with information like this:

How do consumers show their love and appreciation for mom? Typically it’s a nice brunch, some flowers or maybe a homemade meal shared with the family. This year, mom is getting an iPad. Maybe even a diamond necklace.  NRF’s latest Mother’s Day survey found that the average person will spend $140 on mom, with the biggest chunk of that going to luxurious items such as jewelry and consumer electronics. Those looking for more creative ways to spoil mom will seek out gardening tools, kitchenware and even spa treatments.

Well. What to say to that.

Missoula gives something even better than diamonds and electronics to its moms each year on the night before Mother’s Day: The Mother’s Day Eve Bash. The brainchild of Missoula mom Elke Govertsen, the bash has undeniably grown over the years.

Moms who show up at Peak Heath & Wellness this Saturday between the hours of 7 and 11 p.m. can expect to be greeted at the door with a goody bag before moving on to enjoy “Yoga, pampering, wine, and celebrating another year of mothering,” according to the Mamalode website.

Mamalode? Oh, that’s just Elke Govertsen’s OTHER hugely successful brainchild. It’s this magazine and website “for the whole mother.” And it, of course, has a ton more information about the Mother’s Day Eve Bash. Check out that info here.

And I’ll see you there!

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More on the secondhand underwear controversy

Last week Connie Schultz, in her syndicated column, brought to my attention a proposal from a Michigan state senator to require foster parents to use their children’s clothing allowance in thrift stores only.

Sen. Bruce Caswell has since dropped the proposal, but his idea got a lot of folks thinking about the value of new versus used clothing. Me, my mind went straight to underwear. As in, used underwear is not something I would buy; would the proposal have applied to children’s underpants as well? And shoes and socks and other hard-to-find-in-good-condition-and-in-the-right-season-and-in-the-right-size items?

This week Connie Schultz wrote a second column on the subject after speaking with a woman who has very definite ideas – rooted in personal experience – about used clothing.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and an essayist for Parade magazine. Her column appears each Friday on the Missoulian’s Opinion page, but since she writes more than one column in a week, this one won’t be in the paper.

But you can read it here:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Survey says moms will get pampered this Mother’s Day

The countdown to Mother’s Day 2011 has begun! We now have less than a week to go, and according to some recent reports, we moms can look forward to an extra spending – er – extra-special day.

A National Retail Federation survey completed in late April predicts that Americans are poised to spend more on Mother’s Day this year than they have in recent years. The chart included with the article shows a very short timeline, but it does have 2011 spending returning to roughly 2007-2008 levels.

And that, mamas, means spending is expected to top $16 billion. That’s a lot of flowers and greeting cards.

Then again, BizReport has an article up about how online shoppers are expected to spend 10 percent more than other retail shoppers. The article notes one-third of shoppers “intend to spend $219.40 on their moms, 10% more than last year.”

Then there’s this: “A new survey from the Mom Complex, the marketing-to-mothers division of the Martin Agency, reports that 30% of moms say they typically get honored for no more than 5 to 10 minutes on Mother’s Day. In fact, 40% feel their husband and children come first on Mother’s Day, and 12% feel they don’t even make the list.”

How’s that for a mixed message?

Personally, the best Mother’s Day gifts I’ve gotten didn’t cost a dime. My first Mother’s Day, my 7-month-old surprised me by sleeping for a full six uninterrupted hours. The next year, she gave me a near-perfect circle she had cut out of construction paper, all by herself. I carried it around with me for weeks and showed it to all my coworkers. It still fills me with pride whenever I look at it.

And last year, my daughter sang this song, to the tune of “O Christmas Tree”: On Mother’s Day, on Mother’s Day/ O how I love you mom/ On Mother’s Day, on Mother’s Day/ O how I love you mom/ You give me joy and happiness/ I give you love, a hug and kiss/ On Mother’s Day, on Mother’s Day/ O how I love you mom.

What’s been your favorite Mother’s Day gift, either given or received?

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Online survey of moms shows shopping trends in a recession

This MediaPost article published last week gives a quick overview of the results a recent online survey of nearly 2,000 moms who were asked about their shopping habits. It is aimed at industry folk, but I think it contains little tidbits of interest to moms in general as well.

Tidbits such as: “the lessons learned from the recent economic climate are lasting ones” and, “The recession’s impact on Moms and their shopping habits is reflected with the emergence of the Frugalista Mom, a discerning shopper who clips coupons, shops sales and prices and is proud of the money she saves at the cash register.”

Ha. I’ve been a Frugalista Mom for years.

How about you, reader? Have you changed the way you buy, what you buy or how often you buy in response to the recession?

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Barbie not a huge hit in China

The Associated Press ran a story yesterday on Mattel Inc.’s closing of its flagship Barbie store in Shanghai, China.

Apparently, the business model for the six-story building, complete with “spa, cafe, design studio, fashion stage and shelves and shelves of Barbies and Barbie products” never caught on with Chinese parents. The AP posits that this is due to the Chinese parental preference of spending their money on things like music lessons, rather than things like hot-pink fashion accessories for their kids’ dolls.

Personally, I would rather spend my money on a Butterfly House and Insectarium for Missoula. And yes, I am totally going to keep harping on this until the place opens.

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Today’s kids are more fashion-conscious than their parents

I used to think I could tell which kids were dressed by their moms in the morning. The kid in the sweater set with the matching skirt and tights? Dressed by mom. The kid in the green-and-yellow polka-dot pants with striped black-and-gray T-shirt and purple socks? Dressed all by herself.

Now I’m not so sure. If it’s true, as this Philadephia Inquirer article states and as major retailers are banking on, that kids as young as 2 are calling the fashion shots these days, then it seems I could have it all backwards.


Moms who plan ahead get blame for ‘Christmas creep’

If you walked into one of the major retailers in western Montana this weekend and were shocked to see Christmas items sharing shelf space with Halloween leftovers, consider yourself in good company. I know it SEEMS like Christmas comes earlier each year, but this is ridiculous.

The retail phenomenon known as “Christmas creep” is not just happening in  western Montana, either. Major U.S. retailers have already starting their toy-pricing wars in anticipation of a particularly brutal Christmas shopping season.

Warms the heart, doesn’t it?

Well, fellow moms, take note: it’s all being done in our name. Apparently moms are considered the “Chief Gift Giver” of the household, and since we try to get our holiday shopping done before the last minute, retailers feel forced to grab our attention earlier in the year.

Not me, though. I refuse to even THINK about Christmas until after Thanksgiving (well, except for this post), and in fact, as in years past, I will be taking a decidedly minimalist approach to the season, with homemade decorations, simple gifts, and a focus on the fact that reaching for one’s wallet is not an automatic expression of love for one’s family.

The big question is, can I maintain this approach all the way from now until Christmas? Time will tell …

– MM