Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Holiday shopping is about the experience — sumptuous decorations, nostalgic music, the singular perfume of warm spices and evergreen, and the electric buzz of crowds. Even children having meltdowns on Santa’s lap are part of the backdrop to finding just the right gifts for your favorite people.
In every season, Las Vegas is uniquely skilled at the atmospheric aspect of bricks-and-mortar retail. From the Strip to the suburbs, destination shopping abounds, and development of experiential extras is being driven by fierce competition from internet purveyors and changing consumer habits.
On the store level, brands are experimenting too. They might offer a standalone space just for interacting with products, or a lavish set made for selfies. The strongest retailers are creating seamless branding across digital and physical platforms, says John Ragland, head of U.S. retail for TH Real Estate (which owns most of Town Square and has sizable stakes in Fashion Show mall and the Grand Canal Shoppes). He says showrooms are being designed to fit the mood of a brand’s website and app, supporting the trend of ‘omnichannel’ buying, involving online and in-store engagement before a consumer commits.
“The fundamental truth that has emerged is that e-commerce does not exist profitably without physical stores,” Ragland said. “Retailers admit that online sales in a market will increase materially when a store opens in that market, and some are utilizing their retail stores as fulfillment centers.”
Fulfillment is a combination of satisfaction and happiness, the ideal outcome of a day spent holiday shopping. Here’s some inspiration for falling back in love.
6605 Las Vegas Blvd. South; mytownsquarelasvegas.com
Awash in red poinsettias, white lights and synthetic snowflakes, Town Square remains Santa’s desert hideaway. The square is once again decked in his honor, with a giant tree lit so brilliantly it rivals the tip of the Luxor beaming into space. Story time for kids happens at 11 a.m. every Wednesday through Dec. 13, and snow falls nightly at 7 p.m. (and 8 p.m. weekends) through Dec. 23. Holiday specials are popping across the complex, including a $20 gift card for anyone who spends at least $100 from Nov. 24-27. At Brio Tuscan Grille, that same $100 spent on gift cards could earn you a $25 bonus card (that buys a lot of $5 bloody marys at weekend brunch through November). For $3, your little one can brave the adorable holiday train known as the Cactus Coaster, putting her in the mood to try holiday PJs at Justice while you buy her a princess makeover at Pas de Deux. If she’s more into football, grab an official team hat at the Raider Image (she’ll grow into it).
Maximize in-store deals and experiences
• Like Santa, make a list: This is your opportunity to combine what’s best about online and in-person shopping. Browse the brands you love and pinpoint items you’re into before visiting stores. That will guard against overbuying while you check out the quality of products up close, though it’s wise to call ahead to make sure the physical location is carrying exactly what you want or can order it in time.
• Keep tabs on special offers: If you shop somewhere frequently (or even once), chances are you’ve been asked for an email address to receive offers. They can be annoying day to day, but this time of year they’re your insider advantage. Do yourself a favor and create an address just for these messages; that way you can ignore at will and streamline your deal-finding process. Or, check sites such as Offers.com for promotions, coupons and promo codes — that site alone covers more than 16,000 stores and brands.
• Try the bread of the Black Friday sandwich: That means the weeks leading up to and following the frenzy on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The deals might be less dramatic, but the shopping experience promises to be much less competitive and more enjoyable. Check retailer sites, as sale info is constantly updated, but count on deals to keep cracking through the holiday season.
• Plan ahead to score seasonally: There’s no rule saying you can’t buy Christmas gifts in May, and this strategy is as simple as understanding the turnover of different merchandise. Consumer Reports offers a month-by-month guide to deep discounts: For gas grills it’s October (cold weather dries up demand), and for laptop computers it’s April/May and September (spring marks the end of the Japanese fiscal year and release of many new models, and September is the lull after the back-to-school rush).
750 S. Rampart Blvd.; bocaparklv.com
Fashion, fitness, beauty, food — Boca Park’s potpourri is packed with fun and color. Sample the cushiest couches at Living Spaces before raiding the pillow wall, and next door, take up Las Vegas’ original REI on its standing invitation to try hammocks, bikes and gorgeous red Kodiak boots before buying. Then grab some holiday vintages at Total Wine and a satin stunner for New Year’s Eve at Hottie’s World before treating yourself to a slice of pumpkin pecan or peppermint bark cheesecake at the eponymous Factory.
Downtown Container Park
707 Fremont St.; downtowncontainerpark.com
From Athena Manasses’ jewelry made with hand-cut Nevada gems to Kappa Toys’ inflatable unicorns and rainbow of Slinkys, shops at Container Park have the downtown neighborhood’s knack for delightful randomness. The complex is featuring Brunch with Santa Dec. 2 and 9 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with an all-you-can-eat breakfast, cookie decorating, hot cocoa mixing, pics with St. Nick and a souvenir ornament to take home. Tickets are $15-$30, with the option of bottomless mimosas for parents for an extra $15.
2240 Village Walk Drive; shopthedistrictgvr.com
Lamp posts are already wrapped in green boughs and ornaments, palm trees are glittering with lights, and holiday songs are floating through the cobblestone streets. But the signature tree won’t come alive until Nov. 25, when magician Rick Burr promises to conjure Santa Claus amid a laser-light show. From there, Santa will be available for photos between your stops for chic looks at Anthropologie and Parque and gift certificates for wine-infused painting at Pinot’s Palette.
400 S. Rampart Blvd.; tivolivillagelv.com
Tivoli is indeed a village, with everything you need to power up and shop like a champion. Grab a sky-high sandwich at the new Canter’s Deli and authentic Italian coffee at Leone Café before strolling the beautifully manicured grounds. Can’t-miss spots for quick gifts include Paper Source, where each greeting card is a little jewel of cleverness, and MarkieChar, where you’ll find gold bands loaded with Sleeping Beauty turquoise that were hand-hammered by a genius named Bobo.
1980 Festival Plaza Drive; downtownsummerlin.com
The new kid on the block mixes mall standards (Nordstrom Rack, Sur La Table), franchises with character (Attic Salt, Oil & Vinegar) and local indies (Leather Couture by Jessica Galindo, Tiger Lily Floral). And it is throwing down for the holidays, with three ongoing attractions through Christmas Eve. The Rock Rink returns for skating to sick beats under the glow of a 40-foot holiday tree (skate rentals start at $15), with Coffee Bean’s mobile truck ensuring fingers and tummies stay toasty. Meanwhile, Santa is at the new Winter Wonderland Chalet in the Macy’s Promenade, surrounded by a whimsical forest. But the show stopper is the parade at 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 10 and then nightly from Dec. 16 to 24. Snowflake princesses can seriously bust moves.
Grand Bazaar Shops
3635 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Channeling the dynamic energy of open-air markets around the world, the Grand Bazaar outside Bally’s mixes famous brands and local gems just waiting to be discovered. Start your evening with LA’s official hot dog at Dirt Dog and a stiff drink from the flairtenders at Fuel Bar — we recommend the Irish Sidecar with smoky-sweet Jameson whiskey. Then check out Rock Cinema’s selection of tees celebrating iconic bands and films, the secret to delighting picky hipsters and wealthy friends who have everything (or for their babies, as the onesie wall is stacked). Find the perfect piece of Nevada turquoise from Native Jewelers and supplies for aspiring illusionists at Las Vegas Magic Shops before experiencing authentic Turkish ice cream that’s “strangely stretchy” at Marash. Kicked back among your haul under the hexagonal LED canopy, take in the nightly light show with a soundtrack made for holiday magic.
3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South; simon.com/mall/the-forum-shops-at-caesars-palace
Many consider the Forum the jewel of Las Vegas shopping, in terms of both its primo location and rich environs — like a mall sprang up inside an ancient palace. More than 160 specialty shops and eateries live in that distinctly European splendor, likened to Rome’s Via Condotti. Take the whole family to wave at the fish in the 50,000-gallon curved aquarium and hear statues talk in the classic “Fall of Atlantis” animatronic show. (P.S. The Fendi shoe salon is the only one in the country.)
Grand Canal Shoppes
3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South; grandcanalshoppes.com
This shopping mecca would be luxurious without the Venetian cityscape laced with working canals. World-class restaurants from celebrity chefs nestle with prestigious art galleries, making Grand Canal Shoppes a celebrated destination for food, culture and high-end brands — a gift for the gift hunter. Book a gondola ride to make your shopping trip even more memorable, and be sure to grab a photo or video with the talented Streetmosphere performers.
Shoppes at Mandalay Place
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South; mandalaybay.com/en/amenities/the-shoppes-at-mandalay-bay-place.html
The Shoppes might hold the crown for the most eclectic assembly of stores in Las Vegas, along with a vibe that’s delightfully chill compared with some casino arteries. Start at Lick Candy Store, where guests can take photos of their tongues while sampling the crazy-colored sweets. Then, if fashion is on your gift list, score points with a beautifully made cloche or fedora from Chapel Hats and Wonder Woman knee socks (with capes!) from the Las Vegas Sock Market. Loved ones into homewares will dig the bamboo designs at Cariloha and eye-popping panoramas by masterful Australian nature photographer Peter Lik. (Pro tip: Lik’s gallery offers a peaceful escape from the bustling corridor). Tired and snacky? Take an international tour with Russian vodka and Canadian glacial ice at the Minus5 lounge, finishing with authentic Baja tacos at Hussong’s Cantina. Because everyone needs a little rock ’n’ roll mariachi singalong in their Christmas.
Miracle Mile Shops
3663 Las Vegas Blvd. South; miraclemileshopslv.com
A millennial’s paradise, the Miracle Mile is the place where trends and entertainment intersect with a bang. Think Guess and True Religion, Sephora and Mac, Swarovski and Victoria’s Secret. Tucked away among the heavy hitters are boutiques with local flair (Vegas the Store and Vie Sauvage) that will outfit your loved one for a night on the town. Test the options for date night with one of about 20 show options, from comedy and magic to showgirls and zombies.
Shops at Crystals
3720 Las Vegas Blvd. South; simon.com/mall/the-shops-at-crystals
This super-haute retail bonanza encourages the practice of “Touch-Try-Buy.” Home to Balenciaga, Dior, Gucci, Lanvin and a host of other high-fashion brands of clothing and accessories, Crystals is the ultimate shopping spot for that once-in-a-lifetime purchase. Translate it to the plate with Mastro’s three-tiered iced seafood tower. Or, for the contrast of casual eats in the cloud of luxury, grab a wood-fired pizza and enjoy people-watching at Wolfgang Puck’s Cucina.
Galleria at Sunset
1300 W. Sunset Road; galleriaatsunset.com
If dealing with the Strip’s crowds gives you a case of the bah-humbugs, Galleria is your suburban savior. The pride of the neighborhood-mall scene after opening in 1996, the Henderson stalwart has had multiple major refreshings to keep it relevant. The sustained balance of popular brands and recent influx of new restaurants make for a vibrant feel year-round inside the two-story, 1.1 million-square-foot space — one of Southern Nevada’s largest shopping centers. But at the moment, Galleria is all about Santa, who moved into the venue’s heart Nov. 10 with an escort of dancers from Nevada Ballet Theatre. Beneath a 45-foot tree in a “Christmas morning” tableau of oversized gifts and toys, the jolly old soul and his elves are known to take photos with families (and their fur children) decked out in matching pajamas. The whimsy will prime you for leapfrogging favorite stores, from See’s Candies (sample the Scotchmallow!) to H&M to the forthcoming Raider Image, an official outlet for NFL fan gear set to open early next month.
3528 S. Maryland Parkway; boulevardmall.com
With date palms arching over the parking lot and sun pouring in from skylights, this renovated mall offers low-key shopping near the Strip and family activities such as movies and mini golf. Why not buy a gift card for henna art from Patel’s, or engrave a special keepsake at Things Remembered? There’s even a shop called Gift Collection, for those who need an arrow straight to the holiday sweet spot.
3200 Las Vegas Blvd. South; thefashionshow.com
If you have just one day to shop, Fashion Show is the place. More than 250 top-level stores and eight anchors are mingled with about two dozen eateries — including Strip-side dining — and a legit runway hosting weekly fashion shows. Santa is in residency, and he’s accepting photo bookings so you can skip the lines and maximize time to take advantage of in-store deals listed on the website.
4300 Meadows Lane; meadowsmall.com
Back in the ’90s, Meadows was the west side’s main hang for teenagers, and it has maintained its connection to the neighborhood. Locals looking for experiential gifts can nab day passes to the Game Center of America for $10 (foosball, mini basketball, video games and more) or a gift card for services at Murray’s, a classic barbershop for everything from fades and razor lines to braids and eyelash extensions.
Las Vegas Premium Outlets
• North: 875 S. Grand Central Pkwy.; premiumoutlets.com/outlet/las-vegas-north
• South: 7400 Las Vegas Blvd. South; premiumoutlets.com/outlet/las-vegas-south
Busloads of international tourists cycle through the Premium Outlets daily because these malls are bristling with deals on high-end everything, from Converse sneakers and Bose headphones to killer jeans from 7 For All Mankind. The South location feels like a curated neighborhood mall, while the North’s indoor-outdoor layout has the vibe and brand firepower to compete with the best shopping complexes in town.
• Tapping staff expertise: Stores selling specialty goods such as electronics or outdoor gear typically hire for niche interest and expertise. If you’re torn between brands, these are your informed tiebreakers, and they have insights on the killer deals and crowd-pleasers in stock. In the realm of clothing and accessories, staffers are trained to know how brands fit and hold up, and employee discounts mean their knowledge is probably backed up with personal experience.
• Seeing quality firsthand: This is especially vital for clothing. You can check the feel of the fabric, the tightness of the stitching, the amount of give the piece has, the evenness of the buttons, the precision of the seams and the look of the overall tailoring. Two quick signs of quality are the inclusion of an extra button and the fineness of the lining. For other kinds of merchandise, stores might have samples you can play with, whether it’s toys or beauty products.
• Allowing for discovery: One consistent criticism of the internet is its tendency to create bubbles and echo chambers. While the platform is built for discovery, it’s all too easy to only search a narrow field for items you already know. With intriguing window displays, retail complexes draw you into worlds that may not have been on your list. Chat with a salesperson who’s passionate, and you might go home with something special and totally unexpected.
3650 S. Jones Blvd., Suite 8, closetcoutureconsignments.com
An Hermès Birkin — the holy grail of pursedom — in dark cherry with the original receipt. A silk Valentino dress in the legendary designer’s signature red. Whimsical loafers by Alexander McQueen with sides so white you’d swear they never touched the ground. This is not a fashion lover’s fever dream; it’s a sampling of the goods at a small consignment store in an ordinary strip mall. Closet Couture is less like a store and more like your fantasy closet, the tidy racks accented with modern art and framing a table decorated with an ornate candelabra and fashion books by McQueen and Giorgio Armani. You can’t miss the collection of Louboutin pumps (which will have you singing along to Cardi B. a little too enthusiastically). The sales team knows the inventory down to the finest detail, so you can let the lucky recipient of a special piece know its materials, craftsmanship and value. The hand-selected pieces go through careful inspection, whether the tags are still on or it was worn on the runway.
1520 S. Main St., cleostreasures.com
A mini smoke shop is nestled in the delightfully packed space of this Arabian-themed vintage/thrift/consignment bazaar. Ralph Lauren camouflage button-ups, authentic Egyptian imports, dresses from the 1940s, “Diva Wear” — this is the place to find gifts you never thought to look for.
2550 S. Rainbow Blvd., Suite 3, facebook.com/ritzyragslv
Best described as your very, very cool aunt’s closet, this place is home to retro sunglasses swarming with jewel-encrusted insects, a Mary Frances beaded Siberian tiger bag and spiked black Louboutins. Mirrored walls wrap shoppers in layers of fashionable goodness.
8450 W. Sahara Ave., Suite 115, tradinglabels.com
Wander through a vast selection of brands both approachable and luxe, from Ann Taylor to Prada or a funky charm necklace to Chanel earrings in gold and black leather. And keep an eye out for the resident kitty, doing her best diva lounge in the store’s chic displays.
BONUS: Holiday BazaarS
From the homespun crafts of the Doodlebug Bazaar (Dec. 2, Boulder City Community Club) to the loaded swag bags of the Holiday Shopping Extravaganza (Dec. 10, Palace Station), the season brings dozens of fairs to Southern Nevada that promise one-of-a-kind gifts. Wedged between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the Winter Craft and Gift Show (Nov. 26, Veil Pavilion at the Silverton) offers free parking, admission, goody bags, prize drawings and balloon animals for the kids while parents shop handmade knits, wood creations, sweets, pet accessories, bath and body products, quilts, art and jewelry.
Elly Brown contributed to this story