Saturday, January 20, 2018
Business

Everyone needs an occasional dose of retail therapy

I discovered the personal power of retail a few years ago. I was having a bad week — okay a bad quarter — and decided I needed a quick shakeup.

I tried my usual attitude adjusters. Girls' night out. Calls to mom. Publix Neopolitan with lots of chocolate syrup.

Then I got serious. Nordstrom.

On a Saturday afternoon, I beelined to International Plaza with one plan in mind: to buy a killer pair of jeans.

The clerk was happy to oblige. She had seen it before. Retail therapy might not be approved by the American Psychiatric Association, but it works — and hopefully doesn't require Kleenex.

A few try-ons later, I was at the register with my answer to Cymbalta. A perfect pair of Hudsons. Full priced, which I usually never pay.

Fast forward to today. I don't remember the $175. But I still love those jeans.

I relay this story, partly in jest, to underscore people's emotional connection to shopping. It gives us the stuff that surrounds our lives. Every purchase makes a statement about who we are and want to be, no matter what the size of your wallet.

Really, shopping is a matter of national importance, which I say in my deepest, most official voice. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity and is considered an important indicator of the country's financial health. The numbers are hard to grasp. Retail sales were $4.7 trillion in 2011, according to the latest annual report from the U.S. Commerce Department.

That's a lot of jeans.

Shopping — and other ways we spend money — will be the focus of this new column, titled What's in Store. Expect news about store and restaurant openings, profiles on businesses and commentary about retail trends.

I'll toss in good deals as I find them. Of course, I welcome suggestions, and I'll buy lunch for anyone who tells me first where Trader Joe's is opening in Tampa Bay.

• • •

In the spirit of things that lift your mood, I'll start with Sloan's Ice Cream, which is expanding to the Tampa market. This West Palm Beach-based ice cream and candy shop plans at least four area locations within the next year.

Dubbed "where the elite meet to stuff themselves,'' Sloan's is known for its whimsical pink walls, huge stuffed animal collection and glass bathroom doors that fog up upon entry. Check out these flavors: Scout's Honor with mint ice cream, Girl Scout thin mint cookies and chocolate chunks. Or Coffee & Doughnuts with coffee ice cream and loads of Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts.

A year seems like a long time to wait. No word yet on specific locations. Sloan's has plans for 200 stores nationwide.

• • •

If happiness comes to you on a bone, Famous Dave's barbecue is planning 10 new locations in Florida, including the Tampa Bay area. Famous Dave's has a location in Fort Myers and another opening this fall in the Estero area.

Famous Dave's has won more than 600 awards for its ribs, barbecue sauce and ''scratch-recipe cooking.'' Its barbecue is slow-cooked over smoldering hickory wood in pit smokers. Publicly traded on the Nasdaq (DAVE), it has 186 locations in 35 states. It used to have a restaurant in Clearwater, but it closed in 2008.

• • •

And speaking of comfort food, Burger 21 opened a New Tampa restaurant last week at 20304 Trout Creek Drive in the Trout Creek Commons off Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. It's the fourth for the "beyond the better burger" fast-casual concept founded in Tampa in 2010. Go for the burgers but splurge on the signature shakes. The Key Lime Pie and Ybor City Double Espresso just might be worth the calories.

• • •

Popular clothing retailer H&M last week opened a store at Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay's second following its local debut at International Plaza. Up next: a store at WestShore Plaza.

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