Carly Gatzlaf, personal shopper, fashion stylist, and owner of À La Mode Wardrobe Consulting, knows Mall of America, as well as other Twin Cities malls. She explains what she does and offers some of her insider tips for visiting Mall of America.
Q: Tell us about your personal shopper business.
A: The main services we provide are closet analysis (helping clients work with what they currently have) and personal shopping (typically at malls, occasionally special ordering/bringing things to clients). We do public speaking, print work, photo shoots, and editorial writing.
Q: How can a personal shopper help?
A: We help shoppers by navigating them to the items they need in their wardrobe. Starting with an initial consult, we hone in on our client’s style and style hang-ups. We then personalize a shopping trip for them, styling outfits that fit their budget and lifestyle. Basically, we take the stress out of shopping. Our clients are led on a three-hour fashion adventure, in a no-pressure situation in which they can relax and walk away with a new wardrobe they love.
Q: What do you like about Mall of America?
A: There is so much variety. Many of the chain stores are the biggest around, so they carry interesting items you can’t always find at other malls.
Q: Is there anything you would improve?
A: If you are having to shop on weekends, everything. Crowds are huge, stores are picked over/messy, and parking is tough. On a weekday, especially in the morning, no . . . love the mall and think everything about it is fabulous.
Q: Where do you recommend shoppers “on a mission” park?
A: West Parking, Level 2, California, outside Nordstrom. Typically, you’ll find tons of parking, and Nordstrom opens 5–10 minutes before 10 a.m., so you can walk through the tunnel there, get a head start, and be on the same floor as the nicest bathroom in the mall (women’s lounge of Nordstrom is on the second floor).
Q: What is your favorite wing of the mall and why?
A: Definitely the West Market. So many of the stores I love, easy parking, great way to get in, get what you need, and get out!
Q: What stores do you find have the best clearance sections?
A: Overall, MOA is not a great mall for clearance/bargain shopping, as it is a very shopped mall, so good items go quickly. The only real exception to this is J. Crew, which has an entire clearance room, and it’s humongous! Nordstrom Rack always has good bargains, especially during their “clear the rack” sales.
Q: What stores do you recommend for shoppers on a budget?
A: LOFT at MOA is fabulous about having sales, and their staff is amazingly helpful (you feel like you are in a boutique, but at a much lower price point). The DSW is the best I have ever been in; many items offered are not even on the DSW website. Old Navy is a bit overwhelming at MOA but has lots of great items very similar to those at Gap and Banana Republic (its sister stores), so it’s great for fashionable finds without a big price tag. H&M, Nordstrom Rack, and Forever 21 are great but can be overwhelming and difficult to shop, so not for the faint of heart.
Q: What stores do you recommend for shoppers who don’t need to worry about a budget?
A: Nordstrom is definitely a one-stop shop for everything and has a great range from super high end all the way to great store brands at a reasonable price. Club Monaco, often overlooked, is great for fashion forward, high-quality pieces. Burberry has a phenomenal selection of jackets, and it is rare to see so many in one place and be able to compare (which makes spending all of the money a bit easier, as you know you have seen all the choices and made the best one for you).
Q: How do you compare weekdays and weekends?
A: If you can shop on a weekday, you will have a much better experience. Many of the staff at MOA stores during the week are full-time employees, know their products, and are amazing at their jobs. Crowds are much smaller, stores are cleaner and better stocked, parking is generally easy, and you get to experience the mall and not be overwhelmed by it. Avoid weekends if at all possible—crowds are huge and very overwhelming. Most of the staff is more weekend-only (if you can find any help) so not as knowledgeable. Items are much more picked over. If you thrive on people and crowds, are going more for the people watching, and are not on a timeline, however, weekends are definitely an experience.
Q: Any tips on navigating Mall of America?
A: Plan ahead on what stores you want to hit, so you end up getting everywhere you want in the wing (as you sometimes miss stores that are on different floors). Utilize Nickelodeon Universe to cut through. If you are hoping to quickly get from one wing to the other, cut through the middle, so you are not always having to do full-circle laps. Escalators can be tough to come by, so remember all of the anchor stores have them, so be sure to utilize them if you are shopping in an anchor store and trying to transition to a different level. The same with elevators: The ones in the middle of the mall wings are super busy, but Macy’s has an elevator that is rarely used, if you need one.
For more information on how to hire your own personal shopper, visit Carly’s website; for all there is to see and do at Mall of America, check out The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America by Beth Blair.