From merchandising and advertising to real estate and technology, business reporters offer insight into the latest trends and people that define today’s top retailers.

Big box purchase coming up? Save w/ discounted coupons or giftcards

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Department stores Updated: July 28, 2014 - 10:09 AM

Want to know how a cheapskate's mind works? Step into my head for a minute.

 I want a couple of chairs and ottomans at Crate & Barrel, but they're not on sale. I will not pay full-price on something that will probably go on sale in the next 6 months. But there's gotta be a way to save 10 to 15 percent now.

"Ten to 15 percent?! You can squeeze a nickel a lot harder than that! What about Target or furniture consignment shops? You call yourself a cheapskate. You're an embarrassment to penny pinchers everywhere!"

Get out of my !*&%!! head. I'm in charge here!

Where was I? Oh yeah,  I'll look for the 15 percent off coupon that C&B sent late last year when I moved.

"Really? You can't even find the Target circular from last Sunday. How do you expect to find a coupon from last year?"

Agreed. Time for plan B. I ask a salesperson at C&B--will these items be going on sale soon? Salesperson tells me about a custom goods sales starting Aug. 8, which may or may not include the items I want.

Time for Plan C. I go to Craigslist and eBay to look for discounted gift cards and coupons. This little trick has been around for years and there are even sites such as

that sell them. Discounts are usually 5 to 20 percent. I try Craigslist first because that's the easiest. I try to buy a gift card with $346.47 on it for $310. Guy agrees to meet me in the Galleria to verify the balance but never seems to be available to meet. I give up and head to eBay for a coupon. (Crate & Barrel periodically mails out coupons for 10 to 15% off regularly-priced merchandise when people have moved to a new home etc.)

On eBay, there were about 50 coupons for sale for Crate & Barrel last week from 10 to 20 percent off with the bidding starting at 99 cents. Why did I never think of selling them on eBay before? Duh. The "Buy it Now" prices range from $5.99 (10%) and up. I have no patience to join in a nickel and dime bidding war over a coupon. I choose "Buy it Now" and purchase a 15% off coupon for $7.

Earlier last week my coupon arrived in the mail. (Some sellers just email you the promocode number.) I went to C&B on Sunday and decided on two ottomans and a couple of accessories totalling about $400. I got nervous as the salesman started to punch in the discount code, worried that the code would no longer be valid.

But the transaction went through flawlessly WITH the discount of about $60. Not bad for a $7 investment.

I could have saved even more purchasing a discounted gift card, but I'm still nervous about purchasing those on eBay. Maybe I'll use one of the discounted gift card websites and report back.

Groupon offers an Angie's List subscription for $14/yr

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Technology Updated: July 18, 2014 - 4:25 PM

Angie's List, the service that helps Twin Cities consumers find a high-quality plumber, doctor, mechanic or roofer, is reducing its 1-year membership fee to $14 on Groupon, regularly $30. The fee includes access to all the reviews including health, online and live-call support, digital magazine, and a $15 rebate on one deal purchase. (Subscribers get emails periodically about a deal such as $99 for a garage door tune-up. Some of the deals are a better bargain than others.)

For $27, you can get a premium membership that also includes complaint-resolution support and a $50 rebate on a deal purchase.

This deal is slightly more expensive than the State Fair deal Angie's List ran last year for $10. But that didn't include the deal purchase rebate.

Paying $14 for a year of quick access to finding a decent electrician, veterinarian, tree trimmer or window washer is reasonable unless you can't even remember the last time you called a repair company.

One weakness in Angie's List is the lack of any consistent evaluation of price. Subscribers are asked to rate on price, but the user rarely knows if the subscriber only called one company to get a bid and do the work. Angie's List is much stronger on evaluating quality of work, in my opinion, especially when at least a dozen subscribers or more have evaluated a company.

This deal is supposed to run through July 21, but if you miss out, wait for the Minnesota State Fair. The Angie's List booth can usually be found in the Grandstand Building or Creative Activities Annex.

Gas prices inch upward. Time to dust off the best savings tips

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Retail Updated: July 3, 2014 - 4:51 PM

Let's assume you aren't going to walk, take a bike or hitch a ride on public transportation. You're going to take an automobile that runs on gasoline. Expensive gasoline.

Apparently those summer blends cost more to, ugh, blend, so what's the owner of a gas slurping, Volt-Prius-Leaf-hating beast supposed to do?

Clip coupons. Pay with a credit card that offers rebates. Fill up on Tuesdays.

Yeah, don't expect miracles when it comes to savings on gas. These tips aren't new, but maybe you forgot them.

1. Fill up earlier in the week--on Mondays or Tuesdays, said Patrick DeHaan at Gas prices typically rise later in the week except when conflagrations break out in the Mideast or the Midwest refinery.

2. Choose a credit card with a 3 to 5 percent rebate on gas purchases. compares some of the best ones.

3. Collect the coupon fliers in the papers from Holiday and Quik Trip. You can save a nickel or more per gallon, but save even more using tip #4.

4. Go to Holiday or Super America stations on Tuesdays when most participating stations will double not only their own coupons but also competitors' coupons. One caveat--if the competitor's coupon says you get a dime off per gallon with the purchase of a car wash, you will need to purchase a car wash to get the discount.

5. Use an app such as Gasbuddy that locates the cheapest gas near you.

Have a safe holiday weekend.

Last minute air fare deals out of MSP

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Retail Updated: July 1, 2014 - 2:10 PM

Saturday I wrote about the high cost of summer airfares. I also included several tips for saving time and money this summer when flying. A couple of them were condensed due to lack of space, including this one: For flights out of MSP, sign up for Sun Country, IcelandAir, Delta and Sprit's e-mail or Twitter alerts.

Here's where to sign up on You'll need a Delta logon and passsword to sign up.

At IcelandAir, signing up for sale alerts is simple as providing your e-mail address. Why IcelandAir? It's a great place to get less expensive fares to Europe.

Sun Country offers Wing It! fares on Tuesdays. Sign up here. Today's fares for the holiday weekend include the following:

 These fares must be booked by 11:59 PM CT (Central Time) on July 1, 2014. (Fares are priced one-way.)

Destination Fare From Minneapolis / St. Paul To Minneapolis / St. Paul
Chicago $60*
July 5, 2014
July 7, 2014
Lansing $60*
July 8, 2014
July 4, 2014
Washington, D.C. (DCA) $100*
July 5, 2014
July 8, 2014
Boston $110*
July 4 & 8, 2014
July 4 & 8, 2014
San Diego $130*
July 3, 2014
July 7, 2014
New York City (JFK) $140*
July 5 & 8, 2014
July 5 & 8, 2014
San Francisco $140*
July 4, 2014
July 7, 2014
Los Angeles $160*
July 4, 2014
July 6, 2014

Galleria adds four new retailers

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Retail Updated: June 26, 2014 - 5:29 PM

The Galleria in Edina has added four new retailers since February, including J. McLaughlin, which opens Friday, June 27. J. McLaughlin offers a tailored, somewhat conservative line of clothing for women and men. The Minnesota location is the only one in the five state region (MN, IA, SD, ND and WI). The company, which has about 90 stores nationwide, chose Minnesota for its strong fan base, said mall retail leasing manager Jennifer Smith in a statement. It is located next to Hammer Made.

Russell + Hazel, Lululemon, Allen Edmonds and David Yurman  opened between February and May.

Existing stores Fawbush's and Pumpz & Co. have remodeled or expanded. Fawbush's boutique completed its refresh in late winter. Pumpz' build-out of a new location across from Coach will be completed in the fall.

Bloomington Total Wine store not expected to open before Nov.

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Retail Updated: June 23, 2014 - 2:15 PM

The Total Wine store in Bloomington that was supposed to open December 2013 may finally open one year after originally planned.

Since December the Bloomington location of the wine superstore has been held up in wrangling with the Bloomington City Council and objections from the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association. Total Wine pulled its application in April and refiled it May 21 with the city of Bloomington to smooth the process.

Those self-imposed delays mean that a public hearing won't be held until late September or early October, said Bloomington city attorney Sandra Johnson. After the hearing the license still has to be approved by the city council. "City staff has agreed to do everything we could to shoot for a council decision in early to late November," she wrote in an email.

Once the license is granted Total Wine can stock the store in a matter of days, but no alcohol can be stored on the premises until after a license is granted.

Ed Cooper, vice president of public affairs & community relations for Total Wine wouldn't speculate on a late November or December opening after all of the licensing issues the company has encountered. But he is confident that the Burnsville location in Burnhaven Mall will open in September.

A hearing on the liquor license in Woodbury (7150 Valley Creek Plaza) will be taken up at a city council meeting on Wednesday, June 25. The Woodbury Bulletin reported that the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association plans to send a representative to object to Total Wine's application.

"We've learned to expect pushback in Minnesota," said Cooper. "It would not surprise us if competitors come to the meeting and ask the city of Woodbury to do their bidding for them. They [liquor store owners] are afraid of competitors."

The Roseville location, which debuted in March in Rosedale Marketplace, is the only location in Minnesota that is open.


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