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Next gen of Jacobs Trading liquidation offers new suits for $35

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: February 19, 2014 - 9:08 AM

Cole Grodnick  has liquid-a-tion coursing through his veins as much as his father Howard Grodick and grandfather Irwin Jacobs do.

The 23 year old proprietor of CEG Enterprises in Hopkins has purchased an impressive amount of Ralph Lauren and other medium to upper-end clothing for men and women (worth $4 million in full retail, according to Grodnick) from a clothing factory that received a large refused shipment. Everything is selling at discounts of 70 to 90 percent.

Here's a sampling of the merch priced between $5 and $35.

Women’s clothing from size 0 to 24, all seasons, includes vests $5, skirts $9, blouses $7,shorts $9, slacks $13, blazers $15 to $19, and suits $29

Men’s suits ($35) and sport coats ($29), all seasons, range in size from 36 to 52 with shorts and longs, mostly 39-44. Also, plain and patterned unisex Ralph Lauren tees $9 (reg. $35-$45),slacks $15,and  Bermuda shorts $13.

In addition to clothing, the sale includes microwave ovens for $20, 4-piece car mats for 410, Kids ride-on cars from Fisher Price and Peg Perego for $95 (more than $200 online), and a limited supply of Xbox 360 for $99.

Payment: credit cards or cash, no checks. All sales final, no returns.

The sale will run for several months and the space may be turned into a permanent Brand Name Deals, which was owned by Jacob's Trading before it closed in Fridley in 2011.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tues-Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays at 1401 Mainstreet, Hopkins, 763-210-5833.

Costco expands its organics selection, temporarily at least

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: February 13, 2014 - 10:03 AM

Shoppers who want organic options haven't always had a lot of options in the Costco produce department--strawberries, blueberries, salad greens, carrots and occasionally butternut squash. Buyers had to look for the word "organic" highlighted in yellow on the price sign to find them in a rush.

But with an organics promotion going on now through March 2, all the signs are easier to find because they've been replaced with an all green sign. It's part of Costco's push to save on organics with a coupon booklet available at the service desk. The coupons are for packaged products such as trail mix, snack chips, juice, cereal, whole grains, hummus, and a spinach-cheese ravioli, not on fresh produce.

The coupons on brands from Cascadian Farm, Seeds of Change, Kashi Stonyfield, and Harry's are for $1.50 to $3 off. Consumers do not need to have the coupon booklet to save. Savings are automatically deducted at the register.

Hundreds of likes and comments at the Moms Across America Facebook page indicate that having more organic choices is a big deal for many families. Still, one person criticized some of the brands that have recently been purchased by corporations, including Kashi (Kellogg's) and Cascadian Farm (General Mills), which have a history of including GMO-ingredients.

The Costco in St. Louis Park has the entire line of packaged organics featured on each cap end in one main aisle. Maybe this will propel Sam's Club to start offering more organics too. So far, the Arkansas-based wholesaler has been slow to add organic items.

Rare sighting of furniture warehouse sale; This one is by Gabberts.

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: February 7, 2014 - 1:46 PM

Retail is in a state of flux. In case you missed it, it was a lackluster holiday season for bricks and mortar while Amazon captured as much as 25 percent of holiday sales.

Another example of a changing economy? The decline of the warehouse sale. Manhattan Toy In Minneapolis, Illume Candles in Bloomington and Europa Import in Inver Grove Heights have all dropped theirs. When was the last time you saw a furniture warehouse sale? I can't recall the last one I saw from Ethan Allen or Schneiderman's, for example.

The last one at Gabberts was three years ago in Coon Rapids. The Edina furniture retailer is having one today through Sunday only because the company is combining its Gabberts' warehouse with Hom's in Coon Rapids. Hom purchased Gabberts in 2008. "It's never good to have a warehouse sale, " said Eric Knight, warehouse manager at Gabberts."You usually lose money."

The retailer's loss is the consumer's gain. The sale Friday through Sunday (Feb. 7-9) is a good one for low prices and nice selection. There is representation from nearly every department with about $1.4 million in inventory, Knight said. Leather sofas and office desks are in good supply at discounts of 50 to 80 percent (slightly better than at the Odds & Ends Room in the Galleria store).

The biggest discounts are on holiday items such as wreaths ($8, regularly an eye-popping $120) and slim Christmas trees 5-9' tall for under $30, but most of the items in the rooms in the entry way have excellent discounts, including art, mirrors, holiday trim, and rug pads, most marked down more than 70 percent.

I didn't see any Hom furniture in the mix, although Knight said there are a handful (fewer than five pieces) included. There are more than a dozen Stickley pieces (casegoods and upholstery), all well-marked down. A 46-inch round quarter sawn oak pedestal dining table with 2 leaves by Stickley was marked down to $1,998,regularly more than $3,500.

A high-end lighted bookcase by Drexel that was $2,047 in the Odds & End Room just last week was marked down further to $1,598 at the warehouse sale.

During the moving sale, all clearance and merchandise in the Odds & Ends Room gets an additional 20 percent discount. Clearance rugs get an additional 25 percent off. Sale hours are noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. The sale is located at 10759 Hampshire Ave. S., Bloomington off Old Shakopee Rd.

For a 30 second panaroma of the moving sale selection, go to

Residential snow plow service on demand. No contracts.

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: January 31, 2014 - 2:24 PM

Minnesotans who purchased a snow removal contract got their money's worth this year, but the more frugal types hate the idea of paying for something that could be a waste of money if it doesn't snow. Take the winter of 2011-2012, for example.

Try the free Plowz app for Apple or Android instead. Plowz introduced service in the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area at the end of December. They plow your driveway with no seasonal contract. To get your driveway plowed, just tap the "schedule a plow" button, choosing the day and morning or afternoon timeframe. The company saves your personal info (including a credit card) so you aren't starting from scratch each time. After it's done, the company emails a photo of the freshly plowed driveway.

What's great about scheduling a day or so out is that it allows the customer to cancel it if a kindly neighbor blows out part of your driveway and sidewalk. You may also want to wait until after the city plows have cleared the street or alley. Those chunks defy most snow blowers and flimsy, plastic shovels, but not a snowplow.

A smartphone is not required. if a person wants to call to schedule a plow with a credit card over the phone, call 1-800-489-8128 extension 2.

Pricing is based on driveway length and width. One to two car lengths to the street is $25 and nine to 10 car lengths is $45. The price may fluctuate during high demand, according to the website.

The site also recommends that a customer stake the driveway so the plow operator doesn't damage the grass, but it is not required.

Plowz is a national company servicing more than a dozen cities. Its drivers are independent contractors.

Plowz is not the only company in the Twin Cities to offer on demand snow plowing. Others do as well, including KG Landscape (612-669-9607) and Plow Pic and Pay in the White Bear Lake area (651-248-4034). They shovel walks too, usually for $55 to $75, all inclusive. Know of others? Add your comment.

Note: none of these companies were vetted by us. Ask for references if you want proof of quality of work.

Len Druskin will rebrand, close 4 stores and open 4 new ones

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: January 28, 2014 - 1:29 PM

Len Druskin, the upscale retail store with multiple concepts, is simplifying its brand. According to a long letter posted by Michael Druskin, the son of founder Len Druskin, the retailer will move "toward one brand, one identity, and one vision--the new premium 'Len.' "

Two of the three stores in Gaviidae closed earlier this month and the Len Druskin Man store will close in February. One of two stores in City Center closed late last year. President Michael Druskin wrote in his letter that the restructuring means the company will be "more consistent... and less confusing."

Amen. The retailer had at least five separate concept stores, maybe more-- LD Len Druskin for women's professional and dress apparel, LD Blues, the the women's upscale casual store (both in Gaviidae and now closed), LD Men (closing in Feb. in Gaviidae), LEN fast fashion lower-priced stores in Southdale, City Center, Rosedale, Ridgedale and MOA), the higher-end flagship in the Galleria and the outlet store in a few doors down from the LEN store in City Center (now closed). And that's not counting the Illinois store that opened late 2013.

Retail analyst Mary Van Note of Ginger in Minneapolis said the number of types of stores was confusing. "They got overextended and the naming strategy didn't make it clear where to go for what," she said.

I had trouble figuring out how the now closed outlet store was different from the other City Center store and the Dale stores, but store reps tell me that the closed outlet was higher-end merchandise from the Galleria. Apparently, the Dale stores and remaining City Center stores are selling lower-priced fast fashion at 50 percent off every day. But it's not an outlet.

Although closing four stores may look like an abandonment of downtown Minneapolis, Druskin's letter indicates that it will bring the higher-end premium brand back downtown in 2015. I am unclear if that means opening a new store and keeping the City Center Len store. (Michael Druskin is out of town and did not respond to an email.)

An employee at the City Center Len location said that it will continue to stock fast fashion at a lower price but will introduce the higher-end stuff too. I'm guessing the existing store will get a makeover too. It's difficult to sell non-discounted, high-end designers under lights so harsh they could induce criminal confessions.

Van Note sees the higher-end trend as a good one for LD.  "Value and super premium concepts both do well and the middle is losing out," she said.

Meanwhile, store reps are saying that the new name will be LEN for all stores, including the Galleria. By the end of February a new store at MOA will replace the temporary location by Macys 3rd floor. Two additional stores will be completed by fall of this year and two more in 2015, wrote Druskin on the store site.

All stores are currently in 50 percent off mode. Not everything is half off in the Galleria or the LD men stores. Selected items are not discounted at all, but the majority of the store is half off for men's and women's stuff.

Best of luck in the transition, Len Druskin.

Pappagallo joins Three Rooms and Whymsy as they exit the Galleria

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: January 13, 2014 - 2:22 PM

Update to earlier post: Pappagallo women's boutique joins Three Rooms and Whymsy in leaving the Galleria in January. It will close at the end of the month and re-open Feb. 1 in a new location at 6133 Kellogg Ave. S. in Edina. Pappagallo was one of the Galleria's original stores, opening in 1973.

Britton Goetze, a member of the ownership team at Pappagallo said that in a meeting with mall officials in September, Hines was more than doubling the store's monthly rent. "The rent was raised so much that it was intolerable. It was impossible for us to stay there," Goetze said in a voicemail.

Whymsy apparel boutique closed earlier in January. Three Rooms, a tenant for 33 years, will close at the end of the month in the Galleria, which was sold to Hines Global REIT in 2012 for $127 million.

Some are wondering if the Galleria is reducing its commitment to local retailers now that the mall is no longer locally-owned.

Patty Burrets, co-owner of Three Rooms, tried unsuccessfully to re-locate to a smaller footprint within the Galleria, but nothing was available. She feels that the Galleria is leaning toward national retailers rather than local ones. Still, she admits that her store was partly a victim of Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel, which sell home decor at price points often below Three Rooms' prices.

"[Former owner] Warren Beck was instrumental in keeping the local focus," she said.

Another local store that left the Galleria last year is StyledLife, but more than 25 locals are staying put, including Len Druskin, Oh Baby, Trail Mark, Twill, Hammer Made, Ampersand, Scandia Down, Pumpz and Fawbush's. Nearly 40 percent of the mall's tenants are local.

Tom Lauer, co-owner of the Que Sera and Oh Baby retail stores, had a Que Sera location in the Galleria until owners and the previous management agreed not to renew leases with Que Sera, A Pea in the Pod and Schmitt Music. He moved Que Sera to downtown Excelsior. "When Warren [Beck, former Galleria owner] was running it, he was conscious of keeping the local mix but I can't get into the head of Hines," he said. "I don't know if we can reach any conclusions, but I am not concerned," he said.

The mall has to weave a delicate balance as it tries to nab retailers that are exclusive to Minnesota before the Mall of America does. National or locally-based, it's survival of the fittest for any retailer, said Dick Grones, principal of Cambridge Commercial Realty in Edina. "The local tenants have plenty of pressure from national retailers that want to be there," he said. "It's survival of the fittest."

Grones isn't convinced that the new owners are cold to the local retailers. Even former owners were ruthless with all their tenants, local or otherwise. "If you're not at the top of your game, you're going," he said. But Grones did say that as bigger national tenants push for larger spaces, it will put pressure on smaller local ones.

While the local emphasis has always made the Galleria unique, the new ownership and the closing of some local stores bears a watchful eye. Stay tuned.



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