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An inside look at top retailers and the consumers they covet

Red Wing Shoes warehouse sale runs Oct. 6-9

Combine a fall leaf watching trip to Red Wing, Minn. with the Fall Festival of the Arts and the 5th annual Red Wing Shoes warehouse sale. (The drive from Minneapolis takes about an hour.)

The sale includes 15,000 pairs of men's and women's boots and shoes in about 50 styles, including Red Wing Heritage boots (men's only), Irish Setter hunting boots and Vasque footwear. Discounts are 30 to 70 percent.

Most but not all Red Wing shoes are made in the U.S. Heritage is its popular made-in-the-USA collection.

Sample savings: Men's safety toe 2239 workboot for $79, reg. $190, men's Heritage Iron Ranger boot # 8111 for $130, reg. $320, men's Irish Setter insulated hunting boot #840 for $90, regularly $240. 

A good size range in each style exists, said Red Wing retail program manager Mike Rudquist, but getting to the sale early is best.

The sale is located at 229 Potter St., Plant 1 in Red Wing. Call 651-388-6233 for details. Sale hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thurs. Oct. 6 and Fri., Oct. 7. On Saturday, Oct. 8, hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

No sales will be allowed by phone or online.

Target sets up website to invite pitches from startups

Target is creating a clearer roadmap for startups who want to do business with it.

The Minneapolis-based retailer launched a new website last week -- www.startup.target.com -- that invites pitches from early-stage companies who are interested in running pilot programs with the big-box giant.

The company wants to use this portal to find new technology platforms to enhance the customer experience in its stores and through its digital channels. It is not intended to be the place to go to plug products that companies want Target to sell on its shelves or online. For that, startups have to continue to follow the more traditional routes for now.

"Innovate with one of the most powerful brands in retail," the website says describing what it calls the "Pitch to Pilot" program. "Target is collaborating with disruptors in the retail industry to drive innovation."

The initiative is one of several ways that Target is looking to engage with startups. It just recently graduated its first class of 11 startups who took part in a three-month accelerator in partnership with Techstars -- and will host at least two more in the coming years. It has been running similar incubators at its offices in India in recent years.

Its California-based Internet of Things team has also met with more than 400 connected home startups in the last year hoping to have its products featured in its experimental "Open House" store in San Francisco.

But still, Target realized it needed a better intake process to engage with startups who have been reaching out to the company in greater numbers since it started the Techstars programs, said Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck.

"A lot of it was people reaching out over email or through LinkedIn or if they knew somebody at Target," she said. "And you never know if you're reaching out to the right person."

The new website is aimed at fixing that problem by setting up a more formal process that eliminates some of the mystery in who to connect with at Target.

The site says it only takes 15 minutes to fill out a pitch form and promises a response from Target within 30 days.

Target isn't the only one trying to streamline the process for startups. Earlier this week, Best Buy unveiled a new program called "Ignite," similar to Amazon's Launchpad, through which startups can more easily submit their products for consideration to be sold on the retailer's website.

Bestbuy.com will then highlight those selected products in a special section of its website.