Protect yourself before you wreck yourself: How to prevent online shopping and credit card fraud. #Holiday2016

Protect yourself before you wreck yourself: How to prevent online shopping and credit card fraud. #Holiday2016

Holiday spending is about to wrap up and the National Retail Federation is expecting retail sales expected to reach $655.8B (source: NRF). With people in a mad dash to return items and take advantage of end-of-year sales, now is the time to be hyper-vigalent about protecting your credit cards from fraudulent activity. Last thing you want to do is end the year on the phone with VISA because your card is getting declined at a bar.

Who Wore it Better #Grammys 2014 version: Reem Acra cocktail...

Who Wore it Better #Grammys 2014 version: Reem Acra cocktail dress on Sara Bareilles (who I adore) after she sang a duet w/ Carole King or me, @hithaprabhakar? Discuss.

LGP and TOPSHOP: Why we care.

By now you've probably heard. LGP has bought a 25% equity stake in TOPSHOP in a move to expand presence in the US. The entire deal was for $805 million almost DOUBLE the amount dealmakers initially thought they were going to get. For fashionistas out there reading this, I'm going to back up and explain who and what LGP is. Leonard Green & Partners is a private equity firm that tends to make significant investments in retailers like Whole Foods, JCrew, Neiman Marcus, PETCO and The Container Store. The firm's involvement is MAJOR since a ton of British brands have tried to come state side, and have failed. For market followers there are two major take aways: 1) with this investment, TOPSHOP is now valued at $3.2 billion and 2) the company is now cash positive and ready to make siginificant investments/acquisitions in other of the Arcadia businesses/companies. In the last year Arcadia (the holding company of Sir Philip Green's companies including Miss Selfridge, Evans, Dorothy Perkins) has seen a pre-tax profit increase of 25%.

And since it's Throwback Thursday, check out an old report I did for the launch of the TOPSHOP store here in NYC. Good times.

Extreme couponing: not just for hoarders

I know what you're thinking. How can I possibly think those crazies on TLC's "Extreme Couponing" may be on to something? If you haven't seen the show I will give you brief rundown: people (mostly women) spend hours of their day taking coupon clipping to the extreeme. No, I'm not talking about using bigger scissors- I'm talking about stealing newspapers, trolling the internet at all hours of the night, even dumpster diving. Gross. While the stars of the show use their coupons to buy crazy amounts of product for example, 250 bottles of Tide detergent, there are some couponers out there that are JUST as diligent about couponing but can come up with a more well rounded grocery cart. Check out the piece I did with Reuters TV I did this week on extreme couponing. I had  the extreme pleasure of shopping with Susan Samtur aka "coupon queen" where we bought $167.88 worth of groceries for $4 + tax (total was $8.88). I'm someone who likes to cook and save money at the same time. Maybe there is something to be said for taking some time out on the weekends to clip coupons of foods you like, take advantage of store deals and really become a more active consumer. I'll just pass on the 500 tubes of Crest.


Post holiday shopping: the best and worst return policies

I find it strange how 99% of retailers are scrambling to get the consumer to start spending and build customer loyalty through rewards programs, etc., (Eye on you Amazon (AMZN), Target (TGT) and Best Buy (BBY)) meanwhile they have some of the worst return policies on the planet! This morning I discussed the best and worst return policies on NPR's "The Takeaway." Really JCrew (JCG)? Are you REALLY not going to let me return a sale item for a full refund? Ugh. Here are my notes from the interview:

What do you think is the ideal/fair return policy? I think a full refund (which very few stores rarely do) is fair, OR return/exchange a gift without a reciept which is what H&M is doing. Target (TGT) is also sort of doing that just as long as the price of gift does not exceed $70 in one year.

What do you think is an unfair policy?

Definitely "final sale" at J Crew (JCG) on sale items. What is that all about? Also,

Amazon (AMZN) has 29 different product-specific return policies in addition to it's regular one for example: -most unopened items can be returned within 30 days -items they do not accept back: Hazardous materials, Kindles (after 30 days), downloadable software products, gourmet baskets, health and beauty products, some jewelry AND If the value is $75 must have a tracking method, items at $500 must be insured. If you are missing orgininal documentation, there will be a 15% re-stocking fee. Annoying!

JC Penny (JCP) requires special occasion dresses to be returned with the "return tag" still in place which prevents people from wardrobing i.e., buying wearing once, and then returning it. has a 60% restocking fee for some open used or late items.

Office Max will not accept returns of opened cameras and software unless it is defective.

I don't think a lot of people are fully aware of these return policies at these stores.

What kind of the hardest items to return? Undergarments, swimsuits, software, electronics (due to restocking fees, shorter time to return the item and sometimes stores won't take them back at all).

If I have to retun a gift for a store online do you have suggestions on how to make this return as EASY as possible? Do your research- most stores do not post their return policies for example, Best Buy lengthened its holiday return period for most items by one to three weeks (until Jan. 31st) but computers still have their 14 day return policy so computer bought on Black Friday can not be returned.

Ask about re-stocking fees: If an item is open add the fee, 30% from, Macys, 15%

Be aware of the tier method (what Amazon and Best Buy (BBY) are doing) : apparel that might have a different date you can return at vs. different than electronics

Buy things on your credit card in case you lose your reciepts: I tend to have about 1,000 slips of paper in my wallet/handbag and the most important reciepts get lost in the tsunami of paper. If you put purchases on your credit card the retailer can pull it up your purchase more quickly.

Hi-fi shoes: What fashion week was REALLY about

An $850 million acquisition of online retailer by Amazon. The Sex and the City sequel where extras are clamouring for Carrie Bradshaw's shoes. Children's footwear posting an 11.8% dollar volume in sales increase. While the retail industry in almost all areas is experiencing one of the worst economic downturns in recent history, the shoe industry in the last three months has proven to be a bright light at the end of a very dark, damp, dismal, depressing tunnel. “When the product is right and offers multiple reasons for wear, the purchases will come,” according to Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group in an interview done by

“Consumers are showing they want footwear and are willing to show their passion on their feet rather than on their backs.”

Cohen's sentiments could not be more true considering what I saw Mercedes- Benz fashion week. While the most of the collections had buyers barely raising an eyebrow, the shoes on the runway caught everyone's attention. here are some of my favorites:

Guiseppe Zanotti Balmain leopard print

Check out these Giuseppe Zanotti for Balmain animal print boots. Yes they are priced at over $1,000 but guess what? People are buying them like crazy. Why? Because this country's mantra when it comes to spending is "where there's a will, there's a way." We'll discuss that later.

Guiseppe Zanotti Balmain zipper shoes

Another Giuseppe Zanotti for Balmain boot. Awesome right?

Guiseppe Zanotti for Balmain

These are my FAVORITE.

Guiseppe Zanotti leopard print shoes

Again, another crazy pair of shoes from Giuseppe Zanotti. What would you wear these with?

Guiseppe Zanotti cut out boots

I think Rhianna was eyeing these...

Roberto Cavalli shoes

While it's not really my thing to a) spend upwards of $300 on a pair of shoes and b) purchase anything at full retail price, these shoes were worth talking about because they are metallic. I have several pairs of metallic shoes and they are the best accessories in my closet!

Fox Business today

Just got back from doing a remote for Fox Business (yeppy, still here in New Mexico visiting my family) on gift cards. Did you know people gave and received almost $29 billion in gift cards this year?? BUT, about $8 billion will never be redeemed! I am partially to blame for that $8 bil. figure- I find it IMPOSSIBLE to cash my gift cards in unless they are from a place I frequent. I.e., Barneys...