Jean McNamer of Roseville had a very uneasy feeling as the meat salesman ran down her driveway to get back into his vehicle. She had just written a check for $339 for two cases of steaks and considered running after the Iowa Steak Company salesman to reconsider.
But she had to pick up her daughter from school so she left after putting the meat in the freezer. But when she returned home, she googled the company and saw lots of warnings not to buy. "Dumb, dumb, dumb," she said. "It's a lesson learned though I thought I had learned this long ago."
Yes, doorbells will be ringing again in many Twin Cities neighborhoods now that grilling weather has finally arrived. The door-to-door meat sales people are a summertime ritual that's starting later than usual this year, "It's the late spring" said Dan Hendrickson, spokesman for the better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota. "In 2012 we had 21 complaints about meat sold door to door. In 2013 we've only had two so far," he said.
The BBB said they are monitoring about seven door-to-door meat sellers, including Iowa Steak Company.
Some are licensed such as Schwan's, but many are not, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Selling unmarked meat from the back of a vehicle should raise all sorts of red flags but unsuspecting consumers may be taken off-guard by the urgency in their sales pitch.
"They're at the end of their shift, their truck has broken down, or they have some unsold meat from their restaurant sales route. We've heard them all," said Dave Read at the MDA. And despite what meat sellers claim, meat supply companies don't sell unsold inventories door-to-door."
In 2004 Farmer's Pride Meat Co. in Blaine had to surrender its food handler's license after more than 100 customers filed complaints. The company had failed to notify its customers of a product recall and a number of them became ill, according to the MDA.
The MDA wants consumers to notify the agency of any meat salespeople in their neighborhood. It and the BBB suggest the following if a salesperson tries to sell you street meat.
Ask to see a wholesale or retail food handler's license for selling meat. Also ask for brochures and business cards to contact the seller. If none are provided, get a license plate number and call the MDA at 651-201-6027 (the Dairy and Food Inspection Department--DAFI).
Buy only meat that comes from a refrigerated truck, not an ice chest or the trunk of a car.
Pay with a credit card instead of cash or a check.
Ask for the price per pound and see if the weight is labeled on the packaging.
In Minneapolis, ask for a city-issued photo ID card, which is required for door-to-door salespeople except canvassers, school or youth groups or magazine sales.
Since joining Best Buy last September, CEO Hubert Joly has launched a major campaign to win back Wall Street. He has given detailed information about the company’s poor performance to analysts and his plans to correct it. He has hired former Williams-Sonoma executive Sharon McCollam, a darling among Wall Street, as chief financial officer.
Best Buy even managed to eek a slight gain domestic same store sales during the fourth quarter. Joly’s efforts have mostly paid off: since December 2012, Best Buy stock has more than doubled to over $26 per share.
But there is one analyst who has proven himself immune to Joly’s charm offensive: Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities.
Of the 26 analysts tracked by Bloomberg who have issued ratings on Best Buy stock in 2013, Pachter is only one of two who recommend investors dump the stock.
Even more startling is Pachter’s 12 year price target for BBY: $9 per share. (The next lowest estimate was $21 by S&P Capital’s Ian Gordon.)
That means that when Best Buy stock (which had once surpassed $50 a few years ago) tumbled to as low as $11.20 in early December, Pachter still thought the stock was overvalued.
He did not return a call seeking comment.
Pachter, a long time Best Buy bear, is known for his…uh…strongly worded opinions on the retailer in both his research reports and quotes in the media. He was particularly harsh on former CEO Brian Dunn, whom he called completely unqualified for the job. (Many analysts privately said the same thing but Pachter had no problem saying it publicly.)
But not even a complete leadership change has softened Pachter. He called Joly’s credentials “unimpressive,” especially to turn around a struggler retailer like Best Buy. Joly is a former CEO of travel and hospitality giant Carlson.
Pachter did profess strong words of praise for McCollam. But Pachter said he continues to doubt Best Buy’s turnaround strategy.
Fair enough. A little skepticism is not unwarranted, given Best Buy’s struggles in recent years.
But Pachter’s research note in February, just before Best Buy released fourth quarter and fiscal 2013 earnings, makes you wonder if the analyst will ever change his mind about BBY.
His estimates weren’t just wrong. They were REALLY wrong.
Pachter predicted Best Buy would earn $1.35 per share in the fourth quarter. The company earned $1.64 per share.
Pachter predicted Best Buy’s profit margins would fall 170 basis points in the quarter. Best Buy said margins declined 10 basis points. He did say the “magnitude of the decline is only a guess.”
But McCollam in January already indicated that gross margins would not dramatically fall. So either Pachter was not aware of the guidance or simply wasn't moved by it.
When Best Buy releases its first quarter earnings next Tuesday, Pachter will no doubt be watching.
But no matter what Joly and McCollam say, don’t expect him to change his mind about the stock.
Candy Taylor treats her garage sales as serious business. The Northfield resident explains why it's important for city-wide sale to have "anchors," just as a mall has Macy's or Kohl's. "You've got to bring in traffic," she said. But the anchors in Northfield's garage sales are Bethel Lutheran Church and a Montessori pre-school.
They fit in well in Northfield's charitable sale theme, where each participant must contribute 50 percent or more of the proceeds to charity. Taylor, who is organizing the sale through 5th Bridge charity, thinks it's the only city-wide sale in the country with such a required charitable component.
Many families contribute to the sale just because they know it's for a good cause, said Molly Woerlin of the TORCH (Tackling Obstacles and Raising College Hopes) Program in Northfield, which helps low-income and Latino students stay in middle school and high school and orients students toward college.
Each family and non-profit designates which charity its proceeds will go to and must donate at least 50 percent to the charity. "One family is choosing a suicide prevention program as its charity," said Taylor. Charities such as TORCH can choose themselves as a beneficiary if they want.
Taylor acknowledges that some families may not want to participate if they need a fundraiser of their own. "We recognize a lot of young families need to sell baby stuff to feed the school clothes budget in the fall," she said.
This is the 6th year for the sale and nearly 30 sites, including homes and nonprofits, will be participating. last year the sale raised about $14,500. Unsold leftovers can be donated to the Community Action Center and Northfield Senior Citizens. What they can't sell will be donated or sold to St. Vincent de Paul.
The sale is held rain or shine from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, 2013.
The pros and cons of global trade perhaps have never been so starkly contrasted than this week.
On Monday, the National Retail Federation and other trade groups released a report they commissioned that articulates how the United States benefits from imported goods.
A few days later, Time magazine publishes this searing photo of two workers who perished after a building hosting apparel factories collapsed in Bangladesh, killing over 800 people.
In many ways, these two publications vividly demonstrates the paradoxical world of international economics: the benefits of low cost clothing in one country can often come at the expense of another country.
Bangladesh is a poor country in southeast Asia that’s home to a multi-billion apparel industry where low cost workers make clothing for the world’s top retailers, including Wal-Mart, The Gap, and Minneapolis-based Target Corp.
By using low cost suppliers in Bangladesh and other countries in Asia and Latin America, Americans enjoy cheap prices which allow us to afford a better lifestyle, or says the NRF report:
“Imports are not the bogeyman some Americans believe them to be. On the contrary, they benefit our economy in a number of ways. They provide consumers of all income brackets with a greater variety of goods at lower prices. They constrain inflation. They encourage manufacturers to constantly improve quality and innovate while providing them with needed inputs at lower prices…It is time to give imports the credit they deserve.”
Fair enough. But the report conspicuously omits how the United States’ appetite for imported goods impacts the countries whose citizens produce them.
Target and other retailers have noted they hadn’t knowingly sold products made from the collapsed factory in Bangladesh but that’s almost besides the point.
That incident, along with a deadly fire at another factory last November, demonstrates the systematic poor conditions garment workers face throughout the country.
Target is well aware of these problems, noting that it took action in 2011 to pull out or modify buildings that presented severe fire hazards. The company says it conducts several audits, some unannounced, of its suppliers.
But these audits seem like no match for an entire industry in Bangladesh that’s beset with fire hazards and dubious building designs.
So does Target stay in Bangladesh and help change things? Or does it pull out of the country? Most of its sourcing comes from China and the Americas anyway.
Target declined to comment on its future plans. But the fact remains that retailers’ business models depend on finding cheap sources of foreign labor.
Those business models produce tangible benefits to Americans, as the NRF report notes, in the form of low prices and jobs. But it also produces photos like Time’s pic.
Southdale center announced Wednesday that three new stores will open this fall.
Sperry Top-Sider will open a 2,156 square foot store. Many Twin Cities' shoe retailers sell the Sperry brand, but the Southdale store will be the first in Minnesota.
Vera Bradley, known for handbags, luggage and backpacks, will open a 2,300 square foot store. A second Vera Bradley retail location opened in Mall of America in 2011.
Kay Jewelers, with 15 locations in Minnesota, rejoins the Southdale mix after a two year absence. "it's a mainstream acquisition but a good one, " said Jim McComb, a Twin Cities retail analyst with the McComb Group.
McComb expects more new tenant announcements from Southdale with Simon Property Group at the helm. Mall giant Simon of Indianapolis purchased the center in 2011. Since then, they've improved the mall's marketing, visibility and sightlines, said McComb. "The past few owners haven't had the capital necessary to make the improvements," he said. "Simon has saved the mall."
Southdale, the nation's first enclosed shopping center, opened in 1956. With more than 100 specialty stores, it is anchored by Macy's, Herberger's and JC Penney.
Well, that was certainly unexpected.
Commuters arriving at Grand Central Station in New York this morning got a full blast of Target Corp.’s Expect More motto when they encountered the equivalent of supercharged pop up store.
Called The Dollhouse, the 1,500 square replica foot of a house, complete with bedrooms, patios, and kitchen, features 3,500 items from Target’s Threshold housewares collection, including bedding, dishes, and towels.
“Putting our Threshold collection in a house would be the most natural setting to showcase the brand,” said Julie Guggemos, vice president of product design and development. “Dollhouse invites people into it to experience the product, to touch and feel it.”
Target is known for heavily promoting its exclusive collaborations with designers and musicians. But this project represents one of the retailer’s most ambitious attempts to plug a store brand, one of several private label programs overseen by Target’s sizable internal design staff.
Threshold is really an effort by Target to rebrand its home goods products. Target’s other store brands include Mossimo, Market Pantry, and Archer Farms.
Planting the store smack in the middle of Vanderbilt Hall during rush hour probably required Target to pull a few strings so to speak. Fortunately for Target, the retailer sponsored Grand Central Station’s 100th anniversary celebration.
Workers built the Dollhouse in Queens and then moved the structure to Grand Central where it took them three days to assemble it.
In a further nod to Target’s focus on multi-channel retailing, the house carries about two dozen products shoppers can purchase by using their smartphones to scan a QR code. Target.com will later ship the product.
The Dollhouse will remain up until Tuesday.