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Minnesota’s/Wisconsin's loss of snowblowers is New England’s gain

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: January 27, 2015 - 1:40 PM


As the historic snowstorm threatened the Northeast Monday, Mike Frattallone of Frattallone Hardware stores was hoping for a call from Bloomington-based Toro.

"I’d love it they asked me if I wanted to get rid of a couple hundred snowblowers," he said.

The law of supply and demand at work, snowblower manufacturers such as Toro and Ariens sometimes call up their dealers in areas of low or no snow to transfer to areas hit by heavy snowfall. Frattallone got the call a few years ago, although last year dealers around the country were shipping units to Minnesota instead of the other way around.

Toro said the transfers from retailers don’t happen every year, according to snow marketing manager Christine Cheng. This year the company has enough inventory of their own. "We’re moving more than 1,000 units to the East Coast so they can replenish," she said.

Frattallone didn’t get the call this year, but he said it happens with Toro with some regularity.

Some Ariens dealers in Wisconsin got the call last year. Regional sales manager Mark Swift said the Brillion, Wis.-based company pulled 200 snowblowers from Wisconsin retailers and shipped them to Canada.

But thrower manufacturing is changing. After last winter Ariens started manufacturing snow throwers year round to better keep up with demand, Smith said. "It’s not full-time but we build up in the summer so we have plenty of inventory for the preseason," he said.

"A good snow year is followed by strong preseason sales the following year," he said.

Toro doesn’t have a typical stop date to quit manufacturing throwers, Cheng said. "We don’t have production right now, but that could change based on customer needs," she said. It was very good preseason for snowblower sales in fall 2014, partly due to consumers remembering the snowy winter of 2013-14 and early snowfall nationwide. But sales tapered off in December and January with little new snow.

That’s likely to bring an overstock situation in the Twin Cities unless weather patterns change soon. And that will bring markdowns, although Frattallone said snowblower profit margins are very tiny. "Even $20 off is worth considering," he said.

Pet food delivery options, local and national

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: January 19, 2015 - 4:10 PM

In Monday's article about Chuck & Don's new pet food and supplies delivery, I focused on a local business, but there is plenty of competition offering it locally and nationally.

I should have included a mention of Fetch Delivers. The Minneapolis-based company has been doing online delivery since 2006. It delivers to the west metro on Thursdays and the east metro on Fridays as long as the order is placed online or by phone at midnight on Mondays. Delivery is free for orders of $40 or more in Minneapolis/St. Paul and first ring suburbs. In outlying areas, delivery is still free but the minimum order jumps to $100. Customers can find out the minimum order needed with their ZIP code. There are no weight restrictions. For phone orders call 612-338-2433.

Lunds Byerly's stores offer delivery and drive through service. The delivery fee is $9.95 regardless of size. The drive-through service (at Byerly's stores only) is $4.95. Pet owners who want a larger selection may want to choose the St. Louis Park store, which has a Bone Marche store a couple of doors down that is owned by Byerly's.

Urban Tails Pet Supply in Uptown offers free delivery with only a $25 minimum and no weight restrictions. Most of the Twin Cities is included.

Some Meals on Wheels recipients can also request delivery of pet food. The 35 Twin Cities Meals on Wheels Programs accepts pet food donations to interested meal recipients. Some cash donations can also be directed to pet food programs, according to Grant Boelter, communications specialist for Metro Meals on Wheels.

If you have a favorite pet store close by and they don't have a formal delivery policy, ask them. Pet Supplies Plus on Hiawatha Av. in Minneapolis will deliver to seniors and others who are less mobile, as long as they live within a couple miles of the store.

The article also goes on to mention that Target offers rush, same day delivery for $10. Target and Wal-Mart and many other websites also offer free delivery on orders over $50 although some have weight restrictions.

Historic Studio starts liquidation sale Monday

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: January 12, 2015 - 10:27 AM

Historic Studio Interiors  in St. Louis Park starts its 50% of everything sale Monday, Jan. 12. Many items were already marked down previously as Historic limits its warehouse space to add staff and office space. "We are expanding the interior design offerings to do both residential and commercial and also developing a product development arm to the business, which requires liquidating the warehouse space," said co-owner Robb Whittlef.

 Furniture, lighting, antiques, art, and objects are available at the sale, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday until approximately 4,000 square feet of selling space is empty.

The sale is at 4950 West 35th Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55416, 952-933-9924.

Wet Seal closing 7 stores in Minn; MOA and Maple Grove remain

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: January 7, 2015 - 10:25 AM

Teen clothing retailer Wet Seal abruptly closed 338 stores Monday and Tuesday, laying off about 3,700 employees on short notice.

In Minnesota, stores in Rosedale, Southdale, Maplewood Mall, Burnsville Center, Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, Miller Hill Mall in Duluth and Apache Mall in Rochester closed Tuesday, according to store reps in the Rosedale and St. Cloud stores. Mall of America and Shoppes at Arbor Lakes stores in Maple Grove will remain open.

The California-based company will have 173 stores in 42 states and an online business after the closings, according to a corporate statement on its website.

Wet Seal CEO Ed Thomas said in a statement online,  "This was a very difficult decision to make, but after reviewing many other options since I returned to the Company in September, our financial condition leaves us no other alternative than to close these stores. This is an extremely difficult time for the entire Wet Seal team, and we are doing everything we can to protect the interests of all of our stakeholders, including our employees. We acknowledge and sympathize with how hard these recent events have been on our employees, both those staying with the Company and especially those who are leaving the Company this week."

Teen clothing retailers in general have struggled the past few years, especially Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle and Delia's, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year. Others such as H&M, Forever 21 and Zara have performed better with inexpensive fast fashion.

"It's a zero sum game for teen apparel retailers," said Dave Brennan,  co-director of the University of St. Thomas Institute for Retailing Excellence. "Teens have limited resources and lately they're spending more of their money on gadgets than clothes."

Brennan said one bright spot might be the minimum wage increase that went into effect Jan. 1 in many states. That may give teens more disposable income, he said.

Save $500 to $5,000 on a new car with a $10 tool

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: December 21, 2014 - 10:57 AM

In Sunday's Your Money column I write about the methods I used to help a friend get a good deal on a new Subaru. No I didn't buy him a new car for the holidays, but people supposedly give new cars as Christmas gifts. December ranks as the top month for U.S. car sales, with about 1 in 10 vehicles sold in December, according to Bloomberg.

And those king sized bows? A Los Angeles company called "King Sized Bows" appropriately enough, said that it sells about 2,500 car toppers each year, with buyers split evenly between consumers and dealerships. So far, I haven't been able to find the king sized bows distributor in Minnesota.

Let's say that you are one of the lucky ones purchasing a new car soon. One important negotiating tool if you're buying a new vehicle for yourself or a loved one is to find out if there are secret dealer incentive programs. Sometimes known as dealer "holdback," these programs are in addition to special low financing rates or manufacturer rebates.

These incentives can be significant--starting at $500 and going as high as $5,500. That is why it is often possible to buy a vehicle far under the invoice price, said Robert Ellis of, a non-profit that includes car buying services. Incentives may increase because a car isn't selling well, dealers are overstocked, or a newer model is coming out soon and the manufacturer wants the old models off the lot.

You can find out which vehicle models currently have dealer incentives at several sources. If you order the Consumer Reports New Car Price Report for $14, it indicates if the model offers dealer incentives, holdbacks or rebates. But if you want to see a list of all vehicles and their holdback amounts, go to CarDeals. For $10 you can get a list that can be printed. The current issue is dated Dec. 19, but the Dec. 9 issue included these secret incentives:

$1,000: BMW 3-series 2015 (excluding 328d)

$2,000 to $2,500: Chevy Cruz 2014, Hyundai Elantra Sport 2014, Mercedes C300 Sport Sedan 2015 4matic, Toyota Prius Liftback 2014 (excludes Prius V, Plug-In and C)

$3,000 to $3,500: Chevy Malibu 2014 or 2015

$4,000 to $5,500: BMW 7-Series 2015 (excludes Alpina), Chrysler 300C 2014 (excludes 300/SRT/300S) and Ford Taurus 2014

This is only a sampling. Many more incentives are listed in the issue. The holdback incentive is not a guarantee that the dealership will pass along the savings to the customer, but it's a powerful tool to take into negotiating.

This is why the buying technique mentioned in the Your Money column is so helpful. Let the dealers bid against each other via email or by phone. The one who can afford to sell you the car for the lowest price will rise to the top.

Not every vehicle will have an added incentive. My friend's Subaru only had low interest financing offer--no holdback, but I was still able to get the vehicle for $250 under invoice.

You may be able to get the holdback incentive programs free from Automotive News or Edmunds, Ellis said, but even paying $10 to potentially save $500 to $5,000 is well worth it.

"How smart people carry beer" is the latest gadget hopeful

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: December 19, 2014 - 2:28 PM

The Australian "Stubby Strip" maybe should have changed its name as it hopped hemispheres. Most Americans probably don't know that a "stubby" is a short, wide beer bottle aka a "steinie."

Nonetheless, the Twin Cities is the first market in the U.S. to be introduced to an easy way to tote a six pack of beer, soda, water and energy drinks or a 4-pack of wine. The beer or wine caddy fits glass, aluminum or plastic bottles and cans up to 1.24 liters. (Two-liter soda bottles are too large to fit).

The lightweight neoprene fabric and velcro enclosure keep drinks cold and secure as you carry them with a simple, comfortable handle.

Franchise owner Korosh Delnawaz said business has been brisk and he's sold nearly 3,000 of them since November. The advantage is that the material is much lighter weight than a cooler and when folded flat it takes up far less space. Delnawaz describes the strip as an easier way to cart drinks to a beach, boat, campsite, sporting event, party or concert. "Think of a cooler as a mother ship," he said. "The Stubby Strip is much more portable."

Delnawaz currently sells two varieties in kiosks in Ridgedale on the second floor near Macy's and in Mall of America on the third floor near Sears. The price is $24.95 for the Original strip that carries 7 regular sized bottles. It's $29.95 for the Vino strip that holds 4 wine bottles. The Original comes in 5 colors and the Vino comes in two.

The company is hoping to land the product in Wal-Mart and Target, but for now it's available online and at the two kiosks in MOA and Ridgedale.


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