Pretty in the City: A Tale of Two Shopping Events

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As the economy has tightened, Pretty in the City has noticed a distinct correlation between crowds at high-end department stores and the rise of female-centric shopping events and trunk shows. As the crowds able to afford splurges at Neiman-Marcus and Nordstrom's continue to shrink, more of these fun "girls just wanna have fun" retail discount parties have been popping up. Just this year, there has been Gen Art's Shop Miami, Splurge's O' What a Night at Jungle Island, and New Times' own Thread/Unzipped event. And last week, two such shopping extravaganzas went head-to-head.

The well-established Goliath, Shecky's Girls Night Out, took place Wednesday and Thursday, and the new kid on the block, the Honey Shine Holiday Bazaar, which benefited Tracy Wilson-Mourning's Honey Shine Mentoring Program, happened Friday night. Pretty in the City attended both events. Here's how they stacked up, so you'll know where to spend your money next time.

Location

This year, Shecky's switched venues from the venerable Moore Building downtown to the Catalina Hotel on Miami Beach. Parking-wise, it sucked about the same - downtown Miami and South Beach aren't exactly known for their easy parking situations. In terms of layout, this beauty blogger prefers the Moore. Giving each vendor their own little space illustrated two things - First, the rooms at the Catalina are teeny, and second, shopping is best done in an open and free-flowing, rather than enclosed and confining space. Rooms were either crowded beyond belief, or seemed echoingly empty. The three-storey maze-like setup seemed to prove to some vendors' disadvantage, especially when a rumor that no vendors were on the third floor proved to be false. A little map would have helped, or at least signs indicating which way to go. And having the gift bags all the way at the back of the venue by the pool proved to be super annoying when the gift bag guardians started getting stroppy about collecting their tickets.

Honey Shine was held in a very curious location - a mansion far off the beaten path, in Pinecrest. Parking was free but quite honestly, the sheer number of shopaholic, cell-phone obsessed housewives driving giant SUVs along the narrow street made navigation difficult. The layout of the venue turned out to be quirky and fun. Vendors were simply everywhere - tables were set up in the living room, all along the back patio, out front, in the enormous kitchen space, and hilariously enough -  even in the bathroom, which boasted huge mirrors and the biggest shower stall we've ever personally laid eyes on. But the at-home setting and lack of walls dividing the vendors from each other made for a better browsing experience. Honey Shine won this category.

Vendors

Shecky's being a known quantity, means a collection of vendors who are well known - it seemed almost everyone had a print out from Daily Candy or a page from In Style or Allure to brag about. The available items included timeless and lovely jewelry by Louisiana designer Original Sin, to Atlanta's Beryl Blush Blond. The usual laser hair removal and Botox-shilling vendors actively courted customers with offers of steep discounts, there were purses galore, and I personally was enthralled by the skills of JFishKicks. Local entrepreneur Jason Fishbein's company produces fly handpainted sneakers that can be customized any way you want. The Sean Taylor Miami Hurricanes kicks were truly notable.

Honey Shine tended to hew more closely to their target demographic, so there were lots of cool handmade kid's clothes, home décor items, delicious bath and beauty products, and jewelry, jewelry, jewelry. Almost everything was made with love right here in Miami, so from a local perspective, it was really cool to meet entrepreneurs who call the 305 home. The creators of Aromessence Body products, Eittige Jewelry, and Amaloa Jewelry were all extremely warm and receptive, and excited about the turnout - Honey Shine's bazaar was an all-day event and reportedly traffic never slowed down. And it was really cool that Honey Shine founder Tracy Mourning was greeting customers as though she knew them each personally. It gave the event a special kind of warmth.

Freebies

Shecky's won this category hands down - from entry visitors were being handed samples of Crest Whitestrips, and there were mini bottles of Dove for the taking. Cocktails by corporate sponsors Cointreau and Anheuser Busch kept the ladies feelin' groovy.  And then there were the giftbags, which were truly heavy and filled with items of note. Schick Intuition razors, big super dark chocolate bars from Lindt, and astoundingly refreshing Borba water made it worth the while. Honey Shine doesn't yet have any gift bags, so perhaps that's something to come as the event matures. But admission was free, so no harm, no foul.

The winner - all of the beauty loving ladies of Miami! Both events brought out crowds and the attendees all seemed happy, celebratory, and ready to shop. Most notably, the crowd at Shecky's was diverse and festive. Honey Shine brought out the moms and their little ones, and everyone seemed to have a good time. There were excellent discounts to be found, and it seemed to us that almost everyone who attended walked away with something new and cool for the holiday season.

-- Patrice Yursik


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