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Shopping: Finds include cool sky lanterns and Easter baskets

Much like the perennial greenery sprouting in my garden, the shelves and racks at local retailers are filling in nicely.

Spring and summer merchandise has finally nudged out the last of the winter clearance goods. About time, too. I was getting weary of looking at stuff nobody wanted to buy even in January, including a large quantity of hideous, bilge-green wooly scarves at a retailer I won’t name.

Another sign of spring? Every girl under 25 I saw out last week, despite some chilly temps, had dumped winter’s de rigueur tall leather boots in favor of flip-flops or sockless ballet flats/Topsiders. Ah, frosty but fashionable.

Don’t miss the free seminar at 10 a.m. Saturday on fairy gardening at Sandy’s Back Porch in Belleville.

I first encountered paper sky lanterns on the beach in Mexico. People were lighting and releasing them, watching them float out over the ocean. I was fascinated. Since then, I’ve noticed them being used for wedding and a variety of other occasions. I spotted about a dozen with the brandname Sky Lanterns for $2.99 each at HereToday in Fairview Heights. Colors were orange, red, green, yellow and pink. They are flame-retardant and 100 percent biodegradable.

Need some choices in Easter baskets? Head to Five Below in Fairview Heights. There, you’ll find a wall full of them, from fabric to woven. Prices range from $2 to $5. While you’re there, check out the new Duck Tape patterns, plus the addition of scents. Now, whatever you use the tape for will smell as good as it looks. The scented varieties are two for $5 this week. The new patterns are $3.99.

Used to be when you had an outdoor party, you splurged and bought some lights to string around the back yard. Today, those lights can reflect all kinds of fun. The AtHome store (formerly Garden Ridge) in O’Fallon has some interesting choices, from a string of 10 Red Party Cup or mason jar lights for $12.99 to miniature Bud Light or Coke lights for $14.99. Want to go solar? A set of 10 clear glass stringlights is $19.99, which includes a small solar panel.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that Deb Shops, an affordable junior and plus-size retailer with a location at St. Clair Square, was going out of business. The Philadelphia-based retailer has been in business since 1932 and has 287 stores in 42 states. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last December. Currently, everything in the mall store is 70 percent to 90 percent off, with all prom gowns 80 percent off. These deals are good through Sunday, which may be when the store shuts its doors.

While some retailers are struggling, a fair number are expanding, says National Real Estate Investor. In 2015-16, you’ll see more Forever 21 (470 additional locations), Dollar General (1,300), CVS Pharmacy (600), O’Reilly Auto Parts (200), Game Stop (400), Hobby Lobby (101) and Men’s Wearhouse (100), to name just some.

In case you forgot, Lowe’s will deliver your new gas grill and haul away the old one. The catch: You have to spend at least $399 on the shiny new one. Offer ends July 20. Of course, if you’re like me, that’s a lot of money. But Lowe’s in Belleville (and other locations) does offer superior gas grills as low as $99, like the Char-Broil Quickset (26,500-BTU). It will fit in the back of your car.

Raise your shaggy, overplucked, out-of-shape eyebrows if you didn’t know that Ulta Beauty in Fairview Heights has a Brow Bar. You can get expert help, advice and merchandise. It’s best to make an appointment, but midday, midweek you might get lucky with a drop-in. Call 618-398-6274. I had a chat with Erika and she was very helpful. Like it does at Christmastime, Ulta has its buy five select items for $10 and you pick a flowerful Easter basket to deliver it in.

Ah, somebody still has cold-weather gear: All sweatshirts, T-shirts, and knitted scarves and handwarmers are 20 percent off now at Wild Birds Unlimited in Swansea. Sale ends March 31.

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