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.

Tax Day freebies and discounts

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Retail Updated: April 15, 2014 - 9:10 AM

Restaurants and retailers are asking us to celebrate the completion of the 2013 tax year (or at least that's the way I'm interpreting it) with a few bargains. Many sources are putting out the list, including Dealnews, Pocket Your Dollars and the Christian Science Monitor.

Deals can be found at Arby's, Boston Market, Bruegger's, Cinnabon, Famous Dave's, Hard Rock Cafe, IHOP, Office Depot, Papa Murphy's, Perkins, Sonic, White Castle and others.

Add your own if you know of others.

Custom-fit $5,800 office chair features "floating back"

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Technology Updated: April 11, 2014 - 11:30 AM

I don't know how many versions Mies van der Rohe discarded before he was satisfied with his Barcelona  chair or how many Poangs-in-training Ikea had before it settled on its classic, but woodworker Robert Erickson is on the 60th version of a chair now called the Niobrara Office Chair.

Erickson, a Californian who is in the Twin Cities through Sunday, April 13 at the American Craft Council show in St. Paul, custom makes the office chairs to fit more than a dozen personalized measurements. Friday through Sunday at 1:15 p.m., Erickson and his son Tor demonstrate how each chair is customized to a person's back, legs, seat and height.

More than 60 hours of labor are required by the Eriksons to craft each bentwood chair, plus nearly a dozen  hours by the upholsterer and harvesting and drying the materials. The flexible slats that rest against a person's lumbar region are flexible, allowing more comfort.

Erickson's Niobrara chair, named after a river in Nebraska where Erickson grew up, is a melding of sustainable black walnut from California and leather from free-range Great Plains bison.

The chair is in its current form has been sold since February after it debuted in Baltimore. Three have been sold so far for $5,800 each. Expensive yes, but it's not a delicate piece of art. "It's extremely durable and very well-made," he said. "Ergonomists, dcotors and chiropractors love it."

Erickson will be able to custom fit the chair through Sunday. After that, fittings are done at Grand Hand gallery in St. Paul.

Tickets to show at RiverCentre in St. Paul (199 Kellogg Blvd. W.) are $11. Friday night only, tickets are $5 on site after 5 p.m.

Release dates for Target's new lines of organic, natural products

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Target Updated: April 9, 2014 - 8:45 AM

In today's article about Target's latest collaboration with manufacturers, I mention that Target will release more than 120 different products from 17 existing brands in its Made to Matter--Handpicked by Target collection of natural, organic and sustainable products. All are new and exclusive to Target for at least six months. Here are the months the new products will be released.

Evol Foods: Four products, including breakfast burritos and breakfast sandwiches.
Plum Organics: Five products including Super Smoothie and a nutrition platform of organic snacks for kids to be released in spring and summer.
Seventh Generation: Four products including a natural hand wash and dish wash called Purifying Line and the first-ever disposable diaper made from unbleached cotton.

Zarbee's Naturals: Zarbee's Seasonal Relief will be added to the line of cough/sore throat remedies free of alcohol, drugs, glutens and dyes.
 Annie's Homegrown: Four new products.
 Simply Balanced: New organic products such as applesauce squeezers, trail mix and fruit and vegetable strips. (Simply Balanced is a Target brand.)
 Chobani: One new product.
 Horizon Organic: Kid-approved organic cheese shapes in cheddar and colby jack flavors.
SheaMoisture: A new line of skin and hair care products made with shea butter.
 Yes To: A product line made from fruits and veggies from the natural beauty products company.

Burt's Bees: Three new shades of lip gloss, tinted lip balm and lip shine.
Hyland's Inc.: Hyland's 4 kids Complete Cold ‘n Cough.
Kashi Foods: One new product.
Method: A first-of-its-kind, non-aerosol air enhancer spray.
Vita Coco: An all-natural, multi-flavor beverage line from the coconut water brand.
Clif Bar & Company: Two bars, one Clif and one Luna.
 Ella's Kitchen: Two products, including electrolyte beverages and nutritional shakes, both for kids.

Free paper shredding events throughout Twin Cities in April, May

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Technology Updated: April 7, 2014 - 9:15 AM

It's tax time. Purge your piles of sensitive data in a hurry instead of feeding a personal shredder two sheets at a time. Now through May, there are plenty of free or low-cost shredding options in the Twin Cities.

Louise Kurzeka, a professional organizer with Everything’s Together in St. Louis Park, said that finding a free or low-cost paper shredding event has an added benefit.

"It forces people to clear their file drawers," she said.

Sara Pedersen of Time to Organize in Shoreview suggests checking with your bank or credit union for any free shredding events. Some will accept a box or less of material at their branches.
Kurzeka and Pedersen came up with several other options.

Pioneer Secure Shred (155 Irving Av. N., Minneapolis, 612-381-2199) offers free shredding of up to 10 boxes of paper (banker’s box sized) on the first Friday of every month from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. The next free shredding event will be May 2. If you can't wait until then, a box of paper costs $3 each with a $25 minimum.

Shred Right (651-621-1862) will offer free shredding events open to the public.

Saturday, April 12th: 9am-noon. Shred Right @ US Federal Credit Union. 1400 Riverwood Dr., Burnsville, MN 55337.

Saturday, April 12th: 9am-noon. Shred Right @ US Federal Credit Union. 2772 East 82nd St., Bloomington, MN 55425.

Saturday, April 12th: 9am-noon. Shred Right @ US Federal Credit Union. 4290 Dean Lakes Blvd., Shakopee, MN 55379.

Saturday, April 12th: 9am-noon. Shred Right @ US Federal Credit Union. 6303 Old Central Ave. NE, Fridley, MN 55432.

Saturday, April 12th: 9am-noon. Shred Right @ US Federal Credit Union. 7644 160th St. W., Lakeville, MN 55044.

Friday, April 18th: 9am-2pm. Shred Right @ Washington County. 4039 Cottage Grove Drive, Woodbury, MN 55129. Open to Washington County Residents only.

Saturday, April 19th: 9am-11:30am. Shred Right @ Security Victor Insurance Agency to benefit the Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau. 5357 Wyoming Trail, Wyoming, MN 55092. Donations received will benefit the Lakes Area Youth Service Bureau.

Saturday, April 19th: 9am-noon. Shred Right @ Secured Retirement Association. 5775 Wayzata Blvd., St. Louis Park, MN 55416.  

Saturday, April 26th: 9am-noon. Shred Right @ First National Bank: Honey Locust-Northfield. 1611 Honey Locust Drive, Northfield, MN 55057.

Sunday, April 27th: 10am-4pm. Shred Right @ Earth Fair LaCrosse, Recycling Fair. Emerson Elementary. 2101 Campbell Road, La Crosse, WI. (2 blocks from Earth Fair)


Saturday, May 3rd: 9am-11am. Shred Right @ Klein Bank. 8900 Highway 7, St. Bonifacious, MN 55375.

Saturday, May 3rd: 9am-noon. Shred Right @ Bloomington Rotary. Bloomington Public Works Parking Lot, 1700 W. 98th St., Bloomington, MN 55431. All donations benefit the Bloomington Rotary.

Check the website for addresses and additional dates. Box limits may apply.

At Shred Right's St. Paul location, the company will shred up to eight boxes for a fee ($25 plus $3 per box after eight) from 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays (no dropoffs between 11-11:30 a.m.). It will also shred electronic media (CDs, tapes) for 32 cents per pound and cellphones and hard drives (removed from computer) for $5 each at its St. Paul location.

OfficeMax, Office Depot and UPS stores offer paper shredding for about 99 cents per pound (a grocery sack filled with paper weighs 10 to 15 pounds). Check for frequent coupons and discounts through April in Sunday circulars, company apps and e-mails, and on their websites. Some UPS stores occasionally offer discounts for AAA members.

Those who have too much paper to haul on their own can hire a service for home shredding. Shred Right charges $65 to come to the home to shred up to 300 pounds or about 10 to 12 boxes. After 300 pounds, the charge is 15 cents per pound.

“Most people bring it to us, but people settling an estate or cleaning out a home office find it convenient,” said Don Drapeau, president of Shred Right.

Breaking free from cable's straight jacket known as "bundling"

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Technology Updated: April 1, 2014 - 1:22 PM

My nomination for the best invention of the 21st Century is "bundling," also known as utilities linking cable TV, Internet and phone service in one bill. Utilities offer lower overall prices to consumers who buy two or three services and then raise the price if they want to drop one or two parts of the bundle.

For some consumers it's a major tussle to break free of the bundle because dropping one part of the package raises the price on the remaining pieces.

In its May issue Consumer reports show ways to untangle the bundle. Consumer Reports suggestions include bargaining tactics that have been found to work. It lists five tips for hagglers, which are included in the link. The final tip is "be ready to walk." Once you reach the point where you want to bag your current carrier, take notes of whom you spoke to and details of the offer at the new company. You're probably looking for a lower price so don't be satisfied with a low price for only six months. A colleague told me that he rejected a two-year $20 a month ISP offer from Comcast Infinity for a higher price that lasted beyond two years.

He also said not to waste time with the former company once you decide to leave it. They're going to ask why you're leaving and try to get you to stay. If you're unhappy with the service and no low ball offer will get you to change your mind, save time by refusing any attempt to capitulate. Be a broken record, saying, "I just want to cancel the service, no questions asked."

Once you switch, make sure that you have the phone number of customer service handy because it's almost inevitable that a glitch will occur in the set-up. Ask if there is a shortcut to avoid all the prompts to reach an agent.

Check out the full article in Consumer Reports' May issue on the newsstands or a public library. The issue also includes ratings for the best bundles and providers of TV, Internet and phone service. Unfortunately, many of the top-rated providers (WOW, SuddenLink and Verizon FiOS) may be not available in this area.

 Got other suggestions for successfully getting out of a bundle? Please share. I'm fortunate to have a lower-rate contract price on a bundle, but I call the cable company to negotiate a lower price on premium channels such as HBO or Showtime. Sometimes I get a channel free for 3 or 6 months, sometimes I get it for $10 a month (reg. $20 a month), but my advantage is that I am firm about cancelling the premium channel unless it's $10 a month or less.

Miami DJ sues Target for injury after he hoards Jason Wu collection

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Lions, Target Updated: March 31, 2014 - 10:39 AM

Do you get the feeling that Target is bleeding under water and sharks are feeding on the corporation? The data breach has many reporting Target's missteps and it appears to resemble a feeding frenzy for sharks.

How else can a person interpret the latest antics of the Miami DJ who hoarded nearly $5,700 of merchandise from the Jason Wu collection in Feb. 2012?

According to the Riptide blog, Kevin Wills and his then wife were first in line at a midtown Miami Target store to get pieces of the Wu collaboration. Wills and his wife snatched up cart-fulls of Wu booty, causing  recrimination from other shoppers who left Wu-less. (This was before Target instituted a buyer limit on designer collections.) Allegedly, some outraged shoppers physically attacked him while he and his then wife tried to leave the store with their hoard.

One customer allegedly shoved her cart into Wills' legs as her husband said that he was going to "kick Wills' ___."

Maybe it took WIlls two years to discover his legs aren't healing or maybe he figured that everyone is suing Target these days so why not try to cash in with everyone else?

Either way, Wills decided that Target didn't do enough that day to protect him from the angry mob. His proof is that Target dropped its no-limit purchase policy immediately after the incident. He also claims that Target made "hundreds of thousands if not millions in advertising" when the media outlets from the Hollywood Reporter to the Huffington Post ridiculed his behavior.



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