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Posts about Technology

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

Posted by: John Ewoldt 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.

Free paper shredding events throughout Twin Cities in April, May

Posted by: John Ewoldt 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 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.

Target finishes Buy Online, Pick Up in Store roll out early

Posted by: Updated: December 4, 2013 - 3:28 PM

Target Corp. has certainly come a long way with its e-commerce efforts.  Two years ago, the company’s website couldn’t even properly process orders following the roll out of its Missoni collection.

Fast forward to 2013. As of the first week of November, all 1,800 of Target’s stores in the United State offer consumers the ability pick up merchandise in the store that they had ordered online.

Buy Online, Pick Up in Store is not exactly new: Best Buy and Macy’s have long offered the service. But given its ambitious timetable—CEO Gregg Steinhafel told analysts during the summer the retailer planned to complete the roll out by Black Friday—Target not only finished the job but finished it a good three weeks early.

Amy Koo, a retail analyst at Kantar Retail, expressed skepticism that Target could complete the project in such tight timeframe. But the company seems to have adopted a more cautious approach to the rollout, she said.

Unlike the launch of the redesigned in 2011, the retailer has not heavily publicized the debut of Buy Online, Pick Up in Store. Back then, critics argued that Target did not adequately test its website to see if it could handle all of the heavy traffic the Missoni collection was bound to attract.

This time though, Target opted for a “soft launch” to first the test the service on employees and some customers.

“Target did not make a big splash, which makes it easier for them to first get the hang of it ,” Koo said. “It’s a real good thing to ease into it rather than make a big blowout statement.”

Even now, the service remains rather low key. Koo said a store she recently visited was only filling 10 to 15 orders a day.

Target is apparently still working out the bugs. A good friend in San Francisco recently complained to this blogger that the item she ordered on the website was not set aside for her when she visited the store.

“Target made up for it though by helping me find the items and helping me wheel them to my car,” she said.

What's up with those British red telephone booths?

Posted by: Updated: July 19, 2013 - 4:27 PM




Foosball tables and bean bag chairs are so Web 1.0. If you want real street cred as a tech startup or innovation powerhouse today, then you must get a British red telephone booth.

Yes, those fire truck-colored rectangle boxes with TELEPHONE scrawled across the top, right underneath a crown.

Normally, you would find the booths in Parliament Square on Great George Street in London, where tourists like this blogger (see above photo) snap endless photos of this British relic of yesteryear.

But lately, these boxes have been popping up in Silicon Valley or any corporate office that wishes to look high techy.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, where retailers like Target and Wal-Mart are trying to tap tech talent, this blogger first spotted the booth in the offices of Luvocracy, a social media/shopping startup founded by ex-Google executive Nathan Stoll and backed by venture capital heavyweight Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Two days later, this blogger noticed not one, but two booths in the offices of Wal-Mart Labs in nearby San Bruno.

And this past week, on a visit to Target Plaza Commons on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, the blogger found….you guessed it….another red telephone box.




Point of Sale is not sure why tech companies have adopted the booth as its standard bearer. According to website, the General Post Office rolled out the first booth in 1921 while Sir Giles Gilbert Scott unveiled the booth’s most recognized design three years later.

It might seem odd that tech startups and retailers, who are trying to develop unique mobile technologies and smartphone apps, would gravitate to something as quaint as the telephone booth.

But as the website noted: "The telephone was a marvelous technical innovation, but for that reason was very expensive, so their use in the closing decades of the nineteenth century was limited to wealthy homeowners and businesses."

Ah. So a symbol of both innovation and exclusivity. That makes some sense.

But of course, nobody really gave that explanation.

Fiona Kirkpatrick, office manager for Luvocracy, said she found the booth on Craig’s List. Since the phone booth is obsolete, there are quite a few of them up for sale on the Internet, she said.

Since Luvocracy boasts an open office design, Kirkpatrick said she envisions employees using the booth to make real phone calls and to enjoy some privacy.

“Plus the booth looks very cool,” she said.

That’s probably as good of an answer as any. Like any fad, people like to copy what’s cool but never admit they are copying something to be cool.

How else can we explain why exposed brick, open worktables, bean bag chairs, foosball tables, pop culture quotes, whiteboards and markers have become mandatory for any startup office?

Ironic that in the quest to appear innovative, these offices all look the same.



Jay-Z/Samsung pact could help Best Buy stay in the music biz

Posted by: Updated: July 15, 2013 - 4:13 PM



Best Buy may be retreating a bit from the music business. But the Richfield-based consumer electronics retailer is still finding ways to stay in the game.

A recent innovative deal between Jay-Z and Samsung could wind up helping Best Buy. The rap/hip hop artist recently struck a deal with Samsung in which the Korean electronics maker purchased one million copies of Magna Carta for $5 million and distribute it free to owners of Galaxy S III, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note II devices via a special app three days before the album’s early July release date.

So if Jay-Z album give away leads to additional sales of Galaxy smartphones and tablets, Best Buy, which hosts 1,000 Samsung Experience shops in its stores, also benefits from those sales. That’s probably why you see Best Buy’s logo appear at the very end of commercials that promote the Jay-Z and Samsung partnership.

Under CEO Hubert Joly, Best Buy plans to reduce the amount of space it devotes to CDs and DVDs in favor of higher growth merchandise like appliances, mobile device, and store-within-a-store concepts like Samsung Experience.


Not only does Samsung lease the store space from Best Buy but the retailer also likely takes a cut of any sale the originates in the store-within-a-store.

In short, the deal allows Best Buy to continue to position itself as a music destination without having to get its hands dirty in the relative thankless task of directly selling music.

It’s just as well since Best Buy hasn’t had much luck with music in recent years. The retailer bought Napster for $121 million in 2008 only to sell it to Rhapsody three years later. Best Buy also tried to market itself as a seller of musical instruments. But it seems like the company is phasing out that business, according to the redesigned store space Joly showed to investors.

Interestingly enough, Samsung may have borrowed a page out of Best Buy’s playbook a few years ago. In 2008, Best Buy reportedly paid $14 million to exclusively sell 1.2 million copies of Guns ‘N Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” but actually budged over 600,000 units.

Samsung probably hopes it will get more bang out of its $5 million investment with Jay-Z.

Despite some privacy concerns and technical issues with the release, business savvy folks praised the deal with Business Insider claiming “it will change music forever.”

Instead of selling music through the usual channels like iTunes, Jay-Z has chosen a maker of electronics devices to distribute the album. At $5 a pop, Jay-Z probably earned a much higher royalty for his music than any deal he could strike with iTunes.

Unlike Best Buy, Target Corp. continues to invest in its music section.

Earlier this year, Justin Timberlake partnered with Target to exclusively release an extended version of 20/20 in stores, backed by a well-received commercial that aired immediately after JT’s performance during the Grammy Awards.

Despite booming digital sales of music and movies, the Minneapolis-based retailer continues to stock its shelves with the old fashioned CDs and DVDs, hoping its exclusive partnerships with Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and JT can still drive traffic to its stores.



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