Discount Holiday Shopping in Southern New Jersey

Retailers seemingly have pushed prime holiday shopping to the maximum time limit; no sooner is the Halloween candy and decorations slashed 50% than out come the tree lights, the ornaments, wrapping paper, holiday cards and more. In the wilds of southern New Jersey, it really is possible to save more than a few bucks this time of the year, if you shop smart, keep on your toes, and exercise your rights as a consumer!

The toast of shopping in southern New Jersey is the celebrated Cherry Hill Mall, the oldest indoor shopping center in the country. Time has not treated the mall kindly in a physical sense; from the exterior, it looks more than a bit outdated. Inside, however, lies a wealth of bargains for the savvy shopper. The Mall’s two main anchor stores are Macy’s and Strawbridge’s. Want to save a quick 10% to 20% off every purchase? Open up either or both of a Macy’s or Strawbridge’s own shopping cards right on the spot when you make your first purchase. The process is relatively painless, can be done by a sales clerk, and all that you need to provide is your driver’s license. That purchase, plus all others that you make in either Macy’s or Strawbridge’s for the rest of the day, nets you a discount of !0% to 20% (the amount varies, but is guaranteed to be at least 10%) of all purchases, including sales and clearance items. The salesclerk will give you a temporary store card number to use; make sure that you present it during your day of shopping. Macy’s, however, will not give you the discount immediately; the 20% savings I was promised when I opened my card with them was deducted on my first statement. Also in the case of Macy’s, from now until December 24th, you can earn additional ‘bonus points’ which will further increase the percentage amount that you will save. Macy’s card is in reality a Visa card affiliated with Macy’s; you may also use the card as a debit card as well. About four weeks after opening the card account, you’ll receive a pin number upon which to draw out cash at any ATM. Macy’s has the more high-end inventory of the two stores. If you’re looking for lower-end merchandise, start at Strawbridge’s; if you’re dying for a better high end selection, start at Macy’s. Macy’s, for instance, has the smaller – but more exclusive – shoe department. You can’t buy Kate Spade at Strawbridge’s either. Macy’s always has an amazing number of handbags – my own personal downfall – marked on clearnace. Generally seasonal bags (straw totes, canvas bags, etc.), these are often marked down 40 to 50% of their original price – plus, you have your 20% savings pass card on the day you open up your account! In general, Macy’s has a more high end selection of womens and mens clothing and accessories; Strawbridge’s has lesser numbers of name brand items in stock, and their prices reflect this.

Throughout the mall, you’ll find bargain items galore. Don’t hope to find any savings at the Coach store at the Mall, however. Rarely, if ever, do they carry sale merchandise. If you’re looking for Coach items on sale, head back to Macy’s or Strawbridge’s, where they carry not only deeply discounted Coach handbags but footwear as well. Looking for Uggs at a good price? Remember when paying $300 plus for a pair was not uncommon? Check out the selection at The Walking Company. They carried a fairly good selection of Uggs boots, both short and tall, for $89 to $119. They also carry Uggs slippers for under $100; many folks wear the snug, comfy Uggs slippers outdoors as well as inside. Their selection of Uggs boots and slippers, with many of the styles on sale, was quite good. It’s the only place in the Mall which carries the Uggs brand. In addition to Uggs, they also have a nice selection of Acorn boots and slippers, considerably less expensive but almost – almost – equally as comfortable.

Looking for skin, bath and beauty products? Let the games begin! The Mall boasts The Body Shop, Bath and Body Works, Aveda, MAC, and a newly-opened branch of NYC’s beloved cosmetics company, Sephora. I’ve found that their store brands are excellent buys at each of these shops, especially the Sephora makeup remover in a tube. Bath and Body Works often sends out incentive coupons as well – $10 off of a purchase of $30 plus a free gift (generally a small perfume or scented soap) as well. If you’re looking for help with a special skin care or cosmetic need, both MAC and Sephora have tons of young women who will spend time with you looking for just the right product. Of the three cosmetic companies, Aveda is the most laid back, MAC has the best products with relatively good prices (although their black-clad young saleswoman may take you baack a bit – one young lady had a shaved mohawk hairdo with purple streaks, three earrings in one ear, and a lip ring), and Sephora has the biggest selection of the three with the least ‘pushy’ salespeople. In all three stores, you won’t feel embarrassed if their products don’t meet your needs. Looking for the perfect gift at these places? Try a gift card! (This always meets with great success from my teenaged daughters!) At MAC, they will package your gift card in a charming Oriental-theme envelope that looks like a gift bag; at Sephora, their gift cards are inserted into really nifty black plastic cases that have a mirror and can be used as a gift unto itself! The gift card cases are also enclosed in the cute black and white Sephora themed boxes.

In just about every store (even Coach, on the rarest of occasions), there is a clearance/sale section. These are usually located in the back of the store. Head there first!! Many of these items will, again, be seasonal sales, but more and more often, fall styles are being included as well. Check to make sure that there are no flaws in the item (buttons missing, snags, holes, etc.) before making your purchase. Also check out the store’s return policy – at Charlotte Russe, a lower end teenagers’ clothing store, there are no returns given for merchandise, only store credit. Granted, their prices are cheap, but the quality and design of their items reflects that as well. Abercrombie & Fitch has loads of items on clearance, many of them with a summerish theme but many also are fall merchandise that will work just as well in winter (especially their jeans). Long sleeved cotton shirts and tee shirts were marked down 30% to 40% of their original prices; there was also a large selection of winter jackets and coats marked down 35% as well, a most pleasant surprise. Cotton sleep pants were 40% off their original price (I grabbed two pairs!) While every size in every item may not be available, it is worth rooting through the piles of clearance/sale merchandise to find exactly what you’re looking for. Salesclerks at A&F, those hunky young men and slight, pale blondes, may not jump in to help you; their attitude is “what’s out there is what we have”. Keep looking! A&F gifts are highly prized by nearly all young adults. Again, there’s always the option of A&F gift cards; while not packaged nearly as well as the Sephora or MAC gift cards, they offer plastic ‘credit cards’ with photos of moony young people in various stages of yearning packaged into a plain white square envelope. Other options for inexpensive clothes shopping for teens and the young at heart include Charlotte Russe, H&M (large sale/clearance racks way in back of store), and American Eagle (a bit higher end, but again with a great sale/clearance rack by the cash registers). Looking for something more suitable for Aunt Susan? Check out Chico’s. They, too, have fabulous sale racks again at the back of the store, including both year-round knits and some amazing jewelry selections. (Most of the clearance jewelry is marked down 50%, and the styles are all those of Chico’s own designers. They really are quite unique and beautiful.) In addition, ask for a Chico’s Passport Card membership. This card entitles you to 5% savings year round, does not expire, and may be used on their sales and clearance items as well. Check out their Travelers’ line of clothing – super comfy knits that pack well and are business appropriate, too.

While there are literally a hundred stores located within the Cherry Hill Mall, there’s always one gift item that will please even the pickiest of recipients – a Cherry Hill Mall gift card! Available in denominations ranging from $10 up, these gift cards are classily packaged – but make sure that the gift card is accepted by ALL mall merchants. Check, too, if the gift cards may be used at the Mall kiosk stores as well. Feeling quite comfortable with yourself for all of the money you’ve saved on your day of shopping at the Cherry Hill Mall, grab a quick bite to eat at either the Bistro or the mall’s food court. Prices are a little higher at the Bistro, but the selection is fabulous, the food is really good, and having someone wait on you is a very pleasant respite. Ifyou’re in the mindset to continue saving money, there’s always Taco Bell and their 99 cent specials!

The Cherry Hill Mall is located at 2000 Route 38 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey; their telephone number is 856/662-7440 or you may access their web site at Extended shopping hours begin on Friday, November 25th. Also on November 25th, most (if not all!) stores at the Mall will open at 6:00 AM with special savings and early-bird specials. Be one of the first 400 customers at the Mall to spend $200 between 6:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. on November 25th, and you’ll receive a free (yes, FREE!) $20 Cherry Hill Mall Gift Card. There’s an extra holiday surprise in store, too – ten of these 400 cards have been randomly pre-loaded with $300! There’s a limit of one gift card per customer, and the offer is good while supplies last. The friendly folks at the Cherry Hill Mall Customer Service Center will assist you, armed with your store receipts dated 11/25/05, qualify for your free gift card redemption.

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