Answers to your shopping questions

Transforming Bloomingdale’s into Forever 21 at MOA. Will Zara be next?

Certain shopping questions have come up again and again this year, so in an attempt to close out 2012 with a clean inbox, here are answers to your frequent inquiries. Please keep them coming in 2013.

What will take the place of Bloomingdale’s at Mall of America?
Forever 21 took a whopping 80,000 square feet for a two-level fast-fashion mecca—the retailer’s largest outside of Times Square in New York City. It’s been nearly a year since MOA promised the space would be filled by at least four international fast-fashion brands as well as a discounter for the third floor. Did MOA get ahead of itself? Probably. But I know it is working on those deals, and we will see that space filled—or at least under construction—soon. Everything just takes longer than expected.

What neighborhood would you pick for a day of boutique shopping?
If it’s been a while since you’ve hit the streets to shop, head to the North Loop, which is starting to feel like a legitimate retail district. Highlights include martinpatrick3 and ID-Inside Design, Statement, C’est Chic, Askov Finlayson, The Foundry Home Goods, and Arrow. A close runner-up is 50th & France, which may seem obvious, but there are new stores to see, including Lush and Prana. Plus, 50th always feels so magical at holiday time.

Will we ever get a Zara store?
I believe we will. Most likely at MOA, but Southdale or even Rosedale would make sense too. Zara’s focus on trendy fashion at affordable prices is perfect for this market, and Zara is in expansion mode, with stores already open in Chicago, which is often a steppingstone to the Twin Cities.

Can all of these blow-dry bars succeed?
It seems unlikely, with five having opened in Minneapolis this year. But then, we asked the same question about olive oil stores, and those are still going strong. Good hair has become an affordable luxury, much like manicures.

What will take the place of Neiman Marcus?
Another department store is unlikely. A discounter is possible, but don’t hold your breath. Given our dismal history with downtown retail, office space seems the most likely scenario. But Gaviidae Common’s landlord, Brookfield Properties, says it is still exploring options.

Where can I find dress clothes that aren’t made for teenagers but won’t make me look matronly?
Galleria should be your first stop. Boutiques including Arafina, Dugo, and Epitome do a nice job of helping women look elegant regardless of age. Nordstrom is another great option, and if it feels overwhelming, make an appointment with a personal shopper. There’s no charge for the service and no obligation to buy.

How is it possible that in 20 years, no one has written a definitive guide to Mall of America, one of the top tourist destinations in the country?
That’s been my question, and this year, I resolved to answer it with the Ali Shops mobile guide to Mall of America. Next time you’re at the mall, I hope you’ll direct your smartphone to moa.alishops.com for tips, picks, guides, and deals designed to enhance your MOA experience.

Send your shopping questions to Ali at akaplan@mspmag.com or @alishops on Twitter.