Stores are dealing in the downturn

A broad free fall

Autos led the October plunge in sales, but the collapse was widespread as panicky consumers retrenched. Business, 6B

Deal Divas online

We couldn't fit all the deals we found in the newspaper. For more, plus snarky fashion talk, visit blogs.tampabay.com/deals.

Admit it. You've been digging in the couch. You've excavated historic gum, a Wheat Thin, that missing earring and 37 cents if you're lucky.

Stores want the 37 cents. They want it bad.

As tumbleweeds blew by, retailers calculated their October sales figures. Sales haven't been bleaker in 39 years. They fell 2.8 percent from September, the largest drop on record — worse than post-9/11.

Now, good news: The shopping rocks.

Julie Miramont discovered this during lunch Friday when she popped into a liquidating Linens 'n Things in Tampa to buy a bedspread. She left with a heaping cart of sheets, pillows, a hamper and pans. Total bill: $315.95. Savings: $117.60.

"This is the deal of the century," she said, eyes aglow at a $25, 18-inch turkey roaster.

Despite the toilet economy, people are still buying, said Nina Mahoney, marketing and sponsorship director at International Plaza. But she suspects they're curtailing what she calls "self-giving."

The Deal Divas, the St. Petersburg Times' blog team of roving shopping monsters, set out Friday in the, uh, research field, to find the best sales. Here are the highly scientific results of our study.

Oh, don't forget to check the bottom of the washer. Change galore.

Clothes

Venturing to the rear of Old Navy is like spelunking in a frugal cave. Half-off for miles. We found a workout top for $6.99 and matching shorts for $4.99. Blazers abound at $18.99, down from $39.50. Men's thermal shirts are $9.

At New York & Co., pants are buy one, get one 75 percent off. They're sized for all — nice, normal people like Deal Diva Colleen and freaky short hobbits like Deal Diva Stephanie. The cashier even forks over a savings pass for next time.

Neiman Marcus had some St. John Knits skirts, jackets and dresses on serious markdown. Pair an $837 suit jacket with a $237 skirt for an overall savings of $716. No one said class came cheap.

Shoes

Juniors shop Charlotte Russe has footwear up to 75 percent off, plus a buy one, get one for $10 offer. We saw some shiny white size 6 heels for $6, which could be really tempting if you were, say, a reporter with size 6 feet. Not that we know any.

Champs Sports has Air Jordan "high rise low" sneakers for $69.99. In flusher times, they cost $100.

Mammoth men's flip-flops are $2.49 at Old Navy, in subtle designs like argyle, plaid and skulls.

Bags

Salespeople at International Plaza's highest-end stores scoffed at the notion of deals. At Louis Vuitton, the $1,270 Galliera purse was still, well, $1,270. "We never do sales," explained Tony Butera, the store manager. "If we did, honey, this place would be jamming."

Down the hall at Kate Spade, though, everything was 25 percent off through Sunday.

That gorgeous chocolate Dillen bag from the Savona collection? Knock a fourth off its $475 price.

Gadgets

Brace for major "Can I help you with anything?" at Circuit City in Tampa, where staff outnumbered customers about 2-1 at noon Friday. Their Chapter 11 bankruptcy means ginormous deals for geeks. A 50" Samsung plasma flat screen is $1,799.99, $500 off its regular price.

Fans of randomness, we give you Brookstone. The store of wonder sells a tiny photo key chain, plus a magnifier to LOOK AT your tiny key chain. Get a supersized TV remote, $9.99, regularly $30.

Home

Now is the time to upgrade. Lowe's might be a good starting place. "New Lower Price" signs dot the store. Not a sale, per se, but a message: "Yo, we're cheaper now."

A GE Profile front-load washer is down $200 to $1,198, and the Cimarron "high performance" toilet is down to $218.

Kids

Get the little ones cute for sitting with Santa at relatively low cost. Even pricier kids' stores like the Children's Place and Gymboree already have holiday gear on sale. At Gymboree, get 20 percent off a $26.50 red sweater vest for the little dude and a $25.99 plaid jumper for his sister. Patent leather Mary Janes are 20 percent off $25.49.

Jewelry

Some of the best sales were on bling, with discounts up to 60 percent off. Helzberg Diamonds touts a pretty sterling silver and citrine ring for $39.99. But gentlemen, be wary of bragging. If she sees the huge sale banner in the mall featuring her bauble, she'll know you're a tightwad.

Refreshments

After all that shopping, you're exhausted. Starbucks' Venti eggnog latte is $4.35, much-needed fuel to stay awake on the drive home. Once you get there, how 'bout a bottle of Pacific Peak cabernet from Total Wine? At $2.97 a bottle, it's the least you can do.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

The deals | More inside, 3A

Clothes

At New York & Co., pick from among dozens of tops for $9.99, many more than half off.

Shoes

Ann Taylor has hair calf (velvety leather) flats for $59.99, originally $128.

Electronics

Buy a $129.99 Nintendo DS and get a free Kung Fu Panda game ($29.99 value) at Circuit City.

Jewelry

At Kay Jewelers through Dec. 24, get a "Santa's Certificate" — $100 for every $300 you spend.

Stores are dealing in the downturn 11/14/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 15, 2008 8:44pm]

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