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An inside look at top retailers and the consumers they covet

Galleria's old Barnes & Noble space re-opening with new tenants

The space created in the Galleria when Barnes & Noble moved to a smaller space is ready for its debut. New tenants including Soft Surroundings,  Roe Wolfe, Exceler8, a relocated, expanded Starbucks, the restaurant Cov, and a Porsche pop-up are now open or opening next week.

Soft Surroundings offers women's apparel, home goods and cosmetics. Originating as catalog-only in 1999, the St. Louis-based retailer is bucking the trend and expanding into bricks and mortar in a big way. The Edina store is the chain's 59th, and the 16th store to open this year. Sixteen more are expected to open next year, according to Jim Manno, public relations manager for the apparel and home store. More than 35 percent of sales are now from stores. Total sales last year were approximately $275 million, Manno said. 

Soft Surroundings came to the Twin Cities because of a large number of catalog customers in the Twin Cities area. JoEllen Price of Shorewood shopped at a preview Thursday evening. "The clothing is fresh and very middle-aged friendly," she said. "And it's priced down the middle."

Manno described the demographic as 40-plus women who want comfortable clothing. Every piece is rated on a softness scale of one to three, whether it's a Paris Faux Fur Throw or the Velvet Boyfriend Shirt.

Nearly all of the clothing and French-inspired home items are exclusive to Soft Sourroundings.Petites and plus sizes are available but offered mostly through the website.

Cov restaurant will open at 4 p.m. Monday, It's the second location for the great looking dining room that debuted in Wayzata in 2014. The Star Tribune described it as "Cape Cod by Lake Minnetonka." Expect no less from the Galleria.

Exceler8 electric bikes opens Saturday. It's an extension of its parent store in Excelsior. 

A Porsche pop-up will open on Black Friday. Several vehicles will be on display including the 2018 Panamera 4S ($85,000+), Macan ($58,000+) and a 911 Targa 4 GTS ($139,900+). Models will change every month. The 2,000 square feet space next to Roe Wolfe boutique also shares Porsche's brand story via laser projection and graphics. "The Galleria's Porsche pop-up will give both browsers and serious car shoppers a unique opportunity to check out some of the most iconic automobiles on the planet," said Wendy Eisenberg, galleria's general manager in a statement. 

Serious shoppers won't be able to buy or test drive a vehicle at the mall. That can be done at Carousel Motor Group in Golden Valley or Maplewood. The pop-up will be open through spring 2018.  

Target, Best Buy improve their standing in safer chemicals report card

While Target was recently called out for selling fidget spinners with a high amount of lead, the retailer was lauded by another advocacy group today for being among the leaders among major retailers in improving their chemical policies in the last year.

Best Buy also got a better score this year for steps it’s taken to bolster its own such policies in the second-annual report card by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

The report was released to highlight major retailers' progress – or lack thereof – in reducing potentially harmful chemicals used in the products they sell or during the manufacturing process as the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear.

“We are thrilled that major retailers like Walmart, CVS Health, and Target are driving a race to the top to eliminate dangerous chemicals that threaten our families’ health,” Mike Schade, the report’s coauthor and director of the group’s Mind the Store campaign, said in a statement. “At the same time, far too many are lagging behind, failing to meet the rising consumer demand for healthy products. This holiday season, retailers should give us the gift of a toxic-free future.”

Retailers who landed at the bottom of the list with an “F” rating include Toys R Us, Dollar General, Kohl's, TJX (owner of TJ Maxx and Marshalls) and Trader Joe’s. Amazon was given a D.

Target ranked 6th on the list of 30 retailers and earned a B+ from the group, an improvement from the B it received last year. The group noted that the Minneapolis-based retailer has made “significant progress” in the last year by announcing a new safer chemicals policy with ambitious goals to increase the transparency of chemicals in products and to reduce or eliminate certain chemicals from various product categories within certain timeframes.

The report also noted areas Target could improve such as expanding the list of chemicals and various product categories covered by its policy.

While Target has overall been stepping up its game, another advocacy group, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), put out an alert last week that Target was selling some fidget spinners from a company, Bulls i Toy, with levels of lead that would be over the federal legal limit if the products were classified as children’s products.

Target noted that the products were within the legal limits since fidget spinners are classified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as being for general use and not specific to children.

But given the concerns raised, Target began removing those fidget spinners in question from its shelves late last week and said it would work with its vendors to make sure all of the fidget spinners it carries meet the CPSC’s guidelines for children’s products.

A spokesman for U.S. PIRG said it tested 12 fidget spinners from various stores and the ones from Target were the only ones that had high levels of lead. But he acknowledged it wasn't an exhaustive list since there are hundreds of different fidget spinner models on the market.

Meanwhile, Richfield-based Best Buy, ranked 7th on the Safer Chemicals’ list of retailers, scoring a B, a big improvement from the C- it received the year before. The group noted that Best Buy put out a new chemical management statement this year that said it will reduce or phase out chemicals of concern and improve its chemicals management.

Still, the report notes Best Buy can do better by disclosing what is on its restricted substances lists and expand its policy to cover packaging.

The average grade on the list was D+.

Those at the top were Apple (A), Walmart (A-), and CVS Health (B+), Ikea (B+), Whole Foods (B+), Target (B+), and Best Buy (B).