Since last year's Black Friday, our beloved King of Prussia Mall has pulled off one heck of a stylish upgrade.
The additional 155,000 square feet of shopping space — bringing the property to 2.9 million square feet — means 37 new specialty stores, including the region's first Diane von Furstenberg, CH Carolina Herrera, and Gucci outposts. Add those designer brands to Hermes and Louis Vuitton, which already had a strong KOP presence, and we have an unparalleled shopping experience.
According to the latest stats by the National Retail Federation in Washington, 137.4 million Americans plan to knock out a portion of their holiday shopping on Thanksgiving weekend. And, says Kathy Smith, the mall's director of marketing and business development, half a million of them will shop at KOP during the four-day weekend.
So how do you navigate one of America's largest malls during its busiest time of year?
Well, after you make your online reservation with Santa — you can visit St. Nick on the Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom's sides of the mall — and sit through a traffic jam on the Schuylkill Expressway, head for KOP's new orange parking garage.
Not only does the new three-story parking structure feature 1,100 additional spaces, but electronic billboards provide up-to-date info about how many spots are still available on each floor.
The other bonus: A concierge is stationed just beyond the automatic doors, where shoppers can stop for water, snacks, and to charge their smartphones. Speaking of charging, banks of cozy chairs outfitted with USB ports and phone outlets are situated throughout the mall.
Cellphone juice not withstanding, the real reason we brave the traffic and crowds is to shop for loved ones and shower ourselves with a little holiday joy.
So fashionistas can do just that, here are my holiday shopping picks for the best of KOP's new stores:
Shopping find: For women, any A-line frock in a powerful monotone hue, like maroon or forest green. For guys, a zip-up cardigan in gray or navy. Expect to spend between $70 and $150.
What it is: The New York e-tailer that provides guys a custom experience with off-the-rack offerings. With cold beer in hand, men can pick from an array of dressy blazers, plaid shirts, and khakis.
Shopping find: If your guy is a Bonobos shopper, you can get him something based on his style and preferences saved on Bonobos' files. Within two days, it will arrive at your home (the store is considered solely a showroom). If he's not yet a Bonobos shopper, get him a gift certificate so he can enjoy the full experience.
What it is: A Detroit watch, leather goods, and bicycle company that celebrates all things minimalist and craftsmanship from days of old.
Shopping find: A Shinola journal, calendar, or notebook. Ranging from $14 to $28, these are thoughtful, affordable, and easily personalized.
What it is: A destination that's very Charlotte Russe-meets-Cracker Barrel gift shop — think super girly and uber-knickknacky. The store, based in Knoxville, Tenn., donates a portion of its net proceeds to a host of nonprofits.
Shopping find: I like the selection of Giving Keys necklaces (the company employs people coming out of homelessness). The $38 pieces of jewelry are perfect for moms, sisters, friends, or a child's teacher, and are just as good on special occasions as they are for everyday wearing.
What it is: The tony downtown label and New York Fashion Week runway regular founded by designers Nathan Bogle and Marcus Wainwright is known for its wax-coated skinny jeans.
Shopping find: A chunky knit sweater for the man or woman in your life. My favorite: The Briton pullover with thick stripes in oatmeal, orange, maroon, and black that's $325. Sigh.
What it is: A London brand of athletic clothing made for the gym or out on the town that's known for its splashy Japanese graphics, Idris Elba collection, and coats that give the North Face a run for its money.
Shopping find: Faux fur-lined knit hats and snoods available in a selection of colors from heather gray to Schiaparelli pink. The epitome of cozy, they are priced at $24.50 and $39.50, respectively.
What it is: A 20-year-old luxury shoe brand that found its pop-culture footing with Carrie Bradshaw.
Shopping find: Flats or heels covered in sugarplum fairy sparkle. These confections will run you anywhere from $600 to $1,200. (One Cinderella-style shoe is $4,925, but that's just ridiculous.) Plan on going all out for her? Pick up a matching baguette.
What it is: You probably consider yourself well-versed in Philadelphia's artsy Urban Outfitters, chic Anthropologie, and funky Free People. Well, KOP super-sized them all (they cover a total of 60,000 square feet), adding extensive shoe, beauty, bath, and home sections to each.
Shopping find: All three stores boast walls devoted to candles. And though most are majorly fragrant and burn for hours, they truly are splurges, ranging from $28.50 for a Capri Blue Jar candle (which I bought) to $78 for one from Lite Cycle.
What it is: Founded in Boston 10 years ago by designer Dorian Lightbown, Nic & Zoe started as a knitwear line that has expanded to include perfect little black dresses, tunics, and jumpsuits.