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An inside look at top retailers and the consumers they covet

Did you notice holes in Target's shoe department in recent months?

Did you notice Target's shoe department was out of stock on some items in recent months?

If so, you're a keen observer. Executives of the Minneapolis-based retailer nodded to the lighter inventories in shoes as one of the casualties of the West Coast ports slowdown earlier this year that resulted from a labor dispute. The labor issue has since been resolved though it took awhile for the ports to work through a backlog of shipments.

Like a number of other retailers, Target grappled with the delays by ordering extra inventory and re-routing shipments to other ports.

"However, despite these efforts, some categories including shoes, saw spotty in-stocks in the quarter and saw sales accelerate as receipts began to flow and in-stocks recovered," Kathee Tesija, Target's chief merchandising officer, told analysts on a conference call this morning.

She added that those delays are now "fully behind us."

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart executives said this week said the gridlock at the West Coast ports delayed shipments of TVs to Sam's Club and Walmart earlier this year.

Consulting firm Kurt Salmon has estimated that the West Coast ports congestion could cost retailers as much as $7 billion this year.

Postmates overwhelmed at launch, can't keep up with orders for free pizza and ice cream

I should have known there would be some hiccups with the offer of free ice cream and pizza as part of delivery-on-demand firm Postmates' launch in the Twin Cities.

The San Francisco-based startup has been expanding to more cities and went live in portions of the Twin Cities last week. To help create some buzz and familiarize people with the delivery service, it offered a free Punch pizza to local residents on Thursday and Friday and a free carton of ice cream on Saturday and Sunday.

It was apparently a pretty popular promotion. While some people were able to successfully order their pizza and ice cream, judging by comments on social media, others, including myself were not so lucky.

I tried for 45 minutes to place an order for the free pizza on Friday night from Uptown, but kept on being told on the app that all of their couriers were busy and to try again later. To its credit, when I complained on Twitter, the company did put $10 in my account so I could order it another time.

I decided to give them another chance on Sunday, thinking some vanilla ice cream might go pretty well with the series finale of Mad Men. But alas, after trying a few times, I again came up emptyhanded.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one having troubles.

 But others seem to have been more successful.

Heather Luntz, a Postmates spokeswoman, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. But she told me last week that the firm usually hires 100 drivers when it launches in a new city. It's not clear if Postmates didn't have as much luck recruiting enough drivers in the Twin Cities to handle the demand for promotions at launch. Or if, well, they had some technical hiccups or just got a whole lot more orders than they were expecting.

In any case, what is clear is that Minnesotans like free pizza and ice cream.

What is less clear is how willing they will be to dole out for delivery when they have to start paying a 9 percent service fee as well as a delivery fee that can range from $5 to $20 once the initial promotions end.