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America’s Top Stores

Consumer Reports Reveals Retailer Ratings

By Consumer Reports

>posted: 42 DAYS AGO


This article is the archived version of a report that appears in the July 2010 Consumer Reports magazine.
Last year shoppers spent $405 billion at Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. But according to a new study by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, they might be better off if they switch stores.

In a survey of over 30,000 readers, respondents shared their shopping experiences with 11 popular retailers. Here’s how the stores stacked up in overall satisfaction:
(Reader Score – out of 100*)
1. Costco (85)
2. Dillard’s (82)
3. Kohl’s (81)
4. JCPenney (80)
5. Target (79)
6. Sam’s Club (78)
7. Sears (77)
8. Macy’s (77)
9. Meijer (77)
10. Walmart (73)
11. Kmart (72)

Here’s a store-by-store look at the retailers in the survey:

414 warehouses in 40 states. $50 yearly fee. Costco has a wide range of goods but not a lot in each category. Private-label Kirkland Signature products are claimed to be at least as good as national brands, and all of Costco’s merchandise comes with a money-back guarantee.
How to Save
Costco doesn’t accept manufacturers’ coupons but sometimes distributes its own. Instant rebates are fairly common. Customers with an Executive membership ($100) qualify for 2 percent back on purchases, up to a top rebate of $500 per year. (You’d need to spend $2,500 to recoup the extra $50.)
320 stores in 29 states. Slightly more upscale than Macy’s and slightly less so than Nordstrom, Dillard’s is trying to become a bit fancier. It claims it’s the only chain with a “text to buy” option, letting customers instantly order products advertised in magazines.
How to Save
Join the store’s rewards program, which lets you earn Dillard’s Shopping Passes good for 10 percent off a day’s purchases. Dillard’s cardholders earn points; spend $750 during the calendar year to earn a discounted shopping day. If card spending tops $2,000, you qualify for free shipping on four orders.
1,067 stores nationwide. The product mix is about 56 percent national brands, 44 percent exclusive brands (Tony Hawk, Food Network, and others).
How to Save
Kohl’s cardholders receive an extra 15 to 30 percent off all merchandise. Spend $600 a year and qualify for “pick a day” savings six times a year. If you sign up for e-mail alerts, you save on your next in-store or online order. Occasional promotions give $10 in “Kohl’s Cash” for each $50 spent in a single purchase.
More than 1,000 stores nationwide. Style and quality at a smart price is JCPenney’s mantra. Private label and brands made only for JCPenney include Cindy Crawford Style and Joe by Joseph Abboud. JCPenney claims to have one of the largest apparel and home-furnishings sites on the Internet (www.jcp.com). It has been trying to revamp its image and “show that we are not just looking to sell merchandise. We are looking to sell an experience,” says Mike Boylson, chief marketing officer.
How to Save
Sign up for mobile alerts about coupons, giveaways, and events. Check JCPenney’s online outlet for breaking price markdowns of 75 percent or more on clearance merchandise.
596 clubs nationwide. $40 annual fee. Sam’s Club has a limited choice of products in many categories, plus a revolving mix of oddball items (even grandfather clocks). Services include tire installation, optical store, health insurance, and roadside assistance. Experts say merchandise isn’t as glitzy as at Costco.
How to Save
Upgrade to a Sam’s Club Plus Membership ($100 per year) to save an extra $350 in services and benefits such as prescription drugs and express shipping. The enhanced membership has a money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with the savings.
Nationwide, 929 full-line and 1,200 specialty stores (including appliance showrooms and home-décor centers). Sears sells a wide range of appliances (one in two homes in the U.S. owns a Kenmore product), tools, electronics, apparel, lawn equipment, and auto products, and makes more than 12 million service calls a year. Brands include Craftsman, Kenmore, and DieHard. Another exclusive label: Lands’ End.
How to Save
Look for the “deal of the day” via the Sears website, Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail alert. If you find a lower price on the same item at a local store, Sears will match the price and give you 10 percent of the difference. (Take in the competitor’s ad within 14 days).
800 stores nationwide. One of a dwindling number of traditional department stores, Macy’s tries to stand apart from competitors with events such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and tie-ins with TV shows including “Project Runway.” Exclusive and store brands reinforce its “Only at Macy’s” campaign. Among the options: the Martha Stewart Collection and Queen by Queen Latifah.
How to Save
Open a Macy’s charge account and get a 15 percent discount on the day you’re approved and the next day. Cardholders also qualify for exclusive sales and coupons.
190 stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. Meijer (pronounced my-er) takes credit for the one-stop-shopping concept, and stores have expanded to include fresh produce and meat, a pharmacy, electronics, garden centers, and apparel.
How to Save
Know the lingo. Meijer recently boiled down discounts to three types. Prices on “Everyday Best Price” items have been cut drastically; “sale” items are cheaper for a limited time; “price drop” items are marked down for longer than a typical sale item. Use a Meijer credit card and save 5 cents a gallon at the retailer’s gas stations. Check the website for daily “Big Steals.”
1,750 stores nationwide, including 240 Super Targets with a supermarket. The company has unveiled a prototype of a regular store with more fresh foods. “Tar-zhay” is credited with bringing younger, wealthier customers to discount retailing. Stores are stylish, TV ads are trendy, and exclusive lines are by youth-oriented designers. The company boasts of an easy-to-shop layout.
How to Save
Sign up for text or e-mail alerts and receive coupons, deals, and weekly ad reminders. Check Target’s website for daily specials and clearance items (30 to 70 percent off). Open a Target REDcard charge account and receive 10 percent off a day’s purchases. For every $1,000 spent at Target (or 10 prescriptions filled), cardholders qualify for a day of shopping with an extra 10 percent off.
Nationwide, 803 standard stores and 2,747 supercenters. Supercenters add a supermarket and, usually, restaurants, portrait studio, pharmacy, hair salon, employment agency, tire and lube express, and vision center. Walmart.com sells more than 1 million products, which can be shipped free to your local store for pickup. Unlike most chains, Walmart has an everyday-low-price strategy, with bigger bargains on “price rollback” items.
How to Save
Check the website or sign up for e-mail alerts for information on new price rollbacks and special offers.
About 1,300 stores nationwide, including standard stores, 24-hour Kmart Super Centers (supermarket, restaurants, and other services), and Big Kmarts, which fall in between. Kmart emerged from bankruptcy in 2003 and was bought by Sears, so it sells Sears brands and has similar services. Experts say the company still lacks an identity.
How to Save
Unemployed? Apply online for Kmart’s Smart Assist savings card, which offers 20 percent off more than 1,500 items for six months. Join the Shop Your Way program (also good at Sears and Lands’ End) for bonus coupons and 1 percent back on all purchases. E-mail alerts tell about other discounts.

More from Consumer Reports

· Air Conditioner Reviews
· Best Gas Grills
· Digital Camera Reviews

*Ratings are based on the experiences of 30,666 Consumer Reports readers who told us about 56,922 trips to 11 retailers from April 2008 to April 2009. Results might not reflect experiences of the U.S. population. Reader score reflects overall satisfaction. A score of 100 would mean all respondents were completely satisfied; 80 means they were very satisfied on average; 60, fairly well satisfied. Differences of fewer than 3 points aren’t meaningful. Displayed scores are rounded; stores are listed in order of precise overall score.
To see how your favorite stores fared in terms of value, service, checkout and returns, subscribe to ConsumerReports.org.
2005-2010 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc



Surprise! American Icons That Aren’t Really American

What’s more American than enjoying a cold bottle of Budweiser while your kids enjoy their Good Humor ice cream? It sounds so ‘American,’ right? Wrong. These two good ol’ standbys are not American — or at least not U.S. owned.

Whether they never were American or were simply bought by foreigners, WalletPop’s freelance writer Carol Vinzant takes a look at 13 iconic American brands, companies and products that are currently owned abroad.

(iStock Photo)

Full Story



Retail Stores Closing Doors

Our Latest Roundup for 2010

posted: 13 DAYS 3 HOURS AGO


store  closings
Carl De Souza, AFP, Getty Images
Announcements continue to roll in from retailers that have decided to close stores, slow expansion plans or cease operations altogether.
From Christopher & Banks to the ESPN Zone, we update our ongoing roundup with the latest news from 2010. Read on to see which retailers are closing (at least some) of their doors.

Are any of these your favorites?
Announced: June 16, 2010
Walt Disney Co. closed its ESPN Zone restaurants in New York; Baltimore; Washington, DC; Las Vegas; and Chicago. With about 150 employees per ESPN Zone location, the closures leave approximately 1,000 workers jobless. Additionally, approximately 200,000 square feet in retail space is about to hit the market, according to CoStar information. Disney blamed the poor economy for the closures.

Announced: May 28, 2010
The Chicago Tribune reports that Movado Group Inc., the Swiss watchmaker and jeweler, plans to close its money-losing retail division by the end of June in a move to turn around the company. It will close all 27 U.S. stores. The company said it doesn’t intend to run any store closing or liquidation sales, a move to protect its brand name.

Announced: May 8, 2010
A 37-store network of Dollar Store outlets in Washington and Oregon announced they will be closing, just weeks after the parent company filed for bankruptcy in late March.

Announced: May 5, 2010
In its May 5th earnings call, Kenneth Cole CFO David Edelman noted that it closed three stores since the beginning of the year and expects to close a total of five to 10 stores by year-end.

Announced: April 30, 2010
During a company-wide conference call on April 30, it was announced that all U.S. Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery, and Game Crazy stores would begin the liquidation process in May 2010. Stores will stay open for up to six weeks after liquidation begins. The fate of the company’s Canadian stores was sealed on June 8, 2010, as they also entered liquidation. This is an update from Movie Gallery’s February bankruptcy announcement where it originally said they were not going out of business.

Announced: April 26, 2010
Magic Brands, owner of Fuddruckers, said it will use a Chapter 11 bankruptcy “to terminate certain Fuddruckers leases and will close 24 corporate-owned Fuddruckers restaurants by April 30, 2010.”

Announced: April 15, 2010
Christopher & Banks Corporation is a Minneapolis-based specialty retailer of women’s clothing. As of April 15, 2010, the Company operates 799 stores in 46 states. The company currently plans to open approximately 10 new stores and close 25 existing stores in fiscal 2011.

Announced: April 8, 2010
The Kroger Co. is closing 20 in-store medical clinics operated by The Little Clinic chain, and plans to revamp the business model for the convenient care chain in which it made an $86 million investment in 2008.

Announced: March 30, 2010
Charming Shoppes, Inc., the plus-size specialty retailer with up to 2,121 stores nationwide — including Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, and Catherines chains — announced plans that it would close 100 to 120 of its branches in fiscal 2010.

Announced: March 30, 2010
The Atlanta-based retailer of greeting cards and gifts is closing all 43 stores. In March, Hilco purchased the company’s retail and other assets in a bankruptcy court-approved auction for $7.4 million. Everything in the stores, according to bankruptcy court filings posted Tuesday, will be liquidated.

Announced: March 29, 2010
According to CoStar Retail Group, SuperValu is divesting itself of the bigg’s grocery store line, closing five underperforming locations and selling the rest to Remke Markets. The supermarket owner said in a statement that it would close four stores in a Ohio and one in Kentucky. Remke is set to acquire the remaining six bigg’s stores. The divestiture is SuperValu’s second in 2010. The company recently announced the sale of its Shaw’s locations in Connecticut.

Announced: March 15, 2010
A leading sporting goods company in the U.S., the company said it anticipates opening 30 new stores during fiscal 2011, expanding 20 high performing stores and closing about 10-15 underperforming stores.

Announced: March 2010
According to a San Diego Business Journal report, Leap Wireless cut 180 jobs and shuttered 27 Cricket stores nationwide. The flat-rate carrier said the restructuring reflects its changing priorities for the year. Leap spokesman Greg Lund told FierceWireless that 90 of the job cuts were corporate positions and 90 were “field positions.” Leap has around 4,200 total corporate employees and now has 242 company-owned stores.

Announced: March 15, 2010
84 Lumber, the industry’s largest privately held chain of lumberyards, closed 10 stores in 10 states on March 15 due to declining housing starts. The Eighty Four, Pa.-based company now operates 289 stores in 34 states, with 2009 revenues of $1.35 billion. In 2008, the company posted sales of $2.1 billion with 335 locations.


Announced: March 12, 2010
In a March 2010 press release, Ann Taylor updated expectations related to the store closure component of its strategic restructuring program. Under the program, the Company closed 60 stores in fiscal 2008, 42 stores in fiscal 2009, and expects to close approximately 72 stores in fiscal 2010, for a total of approximately 174 store closures under the 3-year program. Of these, approximately half are expected to be Ann Taylor stores and half are expected to be LOFT stores.

Announced: February 24, 2010
For the full year of 2010, Blockbuster expects to close a range of 500 to 545 underperforming domestic company-owned stores. Of these, Blockbuster has already closed 253 stores in January 2010 and has identified approximately 150 other stores that are expected to be closed in April 2010. The Company then expects to close approximately 75 to 125 more stores throughout the remaining portion of 2010

Announced: February 10, 2010
Jones Apparel plans on closing 165 of its specialty retail stores in 2010. While the company declined to say which of its stores would be closed, they indicated that the mall-based retail locations would be closed to allow increased focus on their outlet stores. In 2009, Jones Apparel closed 100 mall-based retail stores which has produced positive results for the parent company of Nine West, Anne Klein, Bandolino and Easy Spirit.

Announced: January 18, 2010
In a January press release about disappointing holiday sales, Borders Group, Inc. reiterated its decision to close 182 Waldenbooks Specialty Retail stores. According to CoStar’s Retail News Roundup, Borders has been “whittling down its Waldenbooks chain since 2001, closing an average of 66 stores per year through 2007. In 2008, 112 stores were closed.”

Announced: March 3, 2010
In 2010, Foot Locker plans to consolidate its Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Kid Foot Locker and Footaction operations under one management structure. As part of this initiative, it closed 106 underproductive stores during the first quarter and eliminated 120 corporate positions. The company also closed 179 stores in 2009.

Announced: February 2, 2010
Movie Gallery filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February. While not going out of business, the restructuring called for the immediate liquidation and closure of approximately 760 stores. After these initial closings, the company operates 1,906 stores in the U.S., including 1,111 Movie Gallery, 545 Hollywood Video and 250 Game Crazy locations. The company anticipates additional store closings during the Chapter 11 process.

Announced: March, 10 2010
The company expects to open approximately 30 new stores and close approximately 30 stores in fiscal 2011.

Announced: January 26, 2010
Due to the recession and lingering housing crisis, Home Depot announced it would lay off 1,000 employees company-wide. In addition, it decided to close three pilot stores: a clearance center in Austell, Ga., a hurricane recovery store in Waveland, Miss. and a small-format store in Wilson, N.C. The company said there were no plans to close any of the chain’s flagship “orange box” stores. It remains the largest home improvement store in the U.S. with 1,976 stores.

Announced: February 2, 2010
The Walking Company filed a reorganization plan under which the company intends to keep 207 of its 214 current store locations open. This was a turnaround from its original plan, announced in Dec. 2009, to close 90 of its underperforming locations.

Announced: January 14, 2010
The skin-care products company filed for bankruptcy in July 2009. But, according to the BNET Retail Blog, Crabtree & Evelyn will actually emerge from the bankruptcy — something that is unusual in the retail arena. In the end, the company will only need to close 35 of its 126 stores.

Announced: January 25, 2010
Boise, ID-based Albertsons LLC is in the process of closing 11 underperforming stores. Specifically, the grocery retailer is closing eight stores in Florida, as well as three stores in Colorado. This latest round of closures will leave Albertsons with 22 stores in Colorado and 20 in Florida; as well as more than 180 stores in Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas. (Note: Albertsons LLC is not affiliated with Supervalu, which operates 463 Albertsons stores.) (Source: CoStar Retail News Roundup)

Announced: January 11, 2010
In January, Bloomberg reported that Wal-Mart Store’s Inc. said it was closing 10 “financially underperforming” Sam’s Club locations in the U.S. However, the company also said it has plans to add six more stores this year. Wal-Mart operated 605 Sam’s Club stores as of Oct. 31, 2009.

Announced: February 8, 2010
Disney is in the process of liquidating and shuttering 24 U.S. and 3 Canada Disney Store locations. As of October 2009, there were 340 total locations. The closures are part of an effort to revamp its existing stores to be interactive and more in keeping with the “Magic Kingdom” theme park feel. (Source: CoStar Retail News Roundup)

Announced: March 15, 2010
The fashion retailer announced that it will close the majority of underperforming stores in the U.S. and sell its Nicole Farhi business as part of a restructuring plan. The total of U.S. stores to be shuttered is numbered at 17, but F.C.U.K. has not released the specific location of those stores.

Announced: March 10, 2010
In its 4Q 2009 conference call, the company announced that due to geographic overlap caused by its 2006 acquisition of the AfterHours Formalwear chain, the company has identified 145 stores that it would likely close.

Announced: March 9, 2010
Specialty apparel retailer, American Eagle Outfitters is shuttering its MARTIN + OSA brand, including its 28 stores and online business. The company expects to conclude the liquidation of the MARTIN + OSA stores by the end of this July. The company opened the first MARTIN + OSA stores, which carried sportswear and casual apparel for men and women age 25 to 40, in fall 2006.

Announced: March 11, 2010
Williams Sonoma CFO Sharon McCollam said that the specialty retailer intends to shutter an undisclosed number of stores in large, multi-store markets during the next three years.

Announced: January 5, 2010
Macy’s said it is closing five stores as part of its ongoing effort to weed out underperforming locations amid opening new ones. Following these store closures, Macy’s will operate 849 stores, comprised of 809 Macy’s and 40 Bloomingdale’s stores.

Announced: January 7, 2010
Trans World Entertainment Corp. continues to whittle down its store fleet. By the end of January, it planned to have closed 161 stores during the prior 12 months. This follows 101 store closures in fiscal 2008. Following this latest closure effort, Trans World would be left with 553 stores. Trans World hit a peak store count of 1,091 in 2006, following its acquisition of Musicland. The majority of Trans World’s stores are F.Y.E., but its portfolio also includes Saturday Matinee, Coconuts, Spec’s and Wherehouse Music. According to CoStar Tenant, the typical F.Y.E. store is 3,000 square feet and located in an enclosed mall. (Source: CoStar Retail News Roundup)


We need your input for an upcoming WalletPop feature …

Tell us which pharmacy/drug store you love (or hate) and why.
Your submission will be considered for inclusion in our article!

2010-03-29 14:52:13



EPA to seek employee participation in chemical safety inspections (HQ)

Source: US EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
Jun. 24, 2010

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released interim guidance that would provide greater transparency in the agency’s chemical safety inspections process. Under the interim guidance, EPA inspectors will offer employees and employee representatives the opportunity to participate in chemical safety inspections. In addition, EPA will request that state and local agencies adopt similar procedures under the Risk Management Program. EPA believes that close involvement of employees and employee representatives in inspections is effective and better protects workers and the adjacent communities.

The interim guidance pertains to inspections conducted by EPA under the agency’s Risk Management Program (RMP). Through this program, EPA seeks to reduce the risks to surrounding communities that arise from the management, use or storage of certain hazardous chemicals. Owners and operators of covered facilities must develop a risk management plan, which includes facility plans for the prevention and response to chemical accidents. Under the Clean Air Act, the Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions require facilities that produce, handle, process, distribute, or store certain chemicals to develop a Risk Management Program, prepare a risk management plan, and submit the plan to EPA.

EPA expects to issue final guidance on participation of employees and employee representative in RMP inspections later this year.

More information on EPA’s interim guidance and RMP: http://www.epa.gov/oem/content/rmp/index.htm

More information on the Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions: http://www.epa.gov/oem/content/lawsregs/rmpover.htm




North American industrial pollution profile released

Source: GLOBE-Net
Jul. 14, 2010

Taking Stock Online, released today by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, provides the latest integrated North American data and most comprehensive picture of industrial pollution across North America.

It documents reported releases and transfers of 5.7 billion kilograms of toxic pollutants in 2006 from industrial facilities in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The North American picture is incomplete however, as a combination of national reporting exemptions for certain sectors and pollutants and incomplete reporting by some facilities reveal significant gaps in the portrait of how much pollution is generated and managed by North American industry.

Taking Stock Online,  presents the latest integrated data set from North America’s pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs) and features an integrated, multi-year database covering over 500 toxic substances and almost 100 major industrial sectors reporting to the PRTRs of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The site also features new tools to assist in data analysis, including a tool to explore data on pollutants transferred across national borders.

The CEC’s Taking Stock Online site is updated annually and allows users to:

  • Explore information on industrial pollutant releases and transfers;
  • Generate reports in a variety of formats including pie charts and spreadsheets;
  • Create maps and view them using Google Earth;
  • Analyze PRTR data with respect to other information such as watersheds, rivers and lakes, and population centers using geospatial data from the North American Environmental Atlas.

Different reporting requirements reveal gaps

Top industrial sectors reporting releases and transfers in North America included metal mining and activities related to the oil and gas extraction sector; fossil-fuel power plants; chemicals manufacturing; and primary metals manufacturing. Reporting requirements vary by country for some sectors and pollutants, revealing important gaps in the tracking of industrial pollution at a North American level-for example:

The oil and gas extraction sector is exempt from reporting under the US Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), as is hydrogen sulfide (the pollutant reported in largest proportions by this same sector in Canada). In Mexico, the reporting threshold for this pollutant is lower than in Canada and the United States, but zero hydrogen sulfide emissions were reported by the oil and gas extraction sector in 2006.

Some of the toxic pollutants reported in the greatest volume in Canada and the United States, such as carbon disulfide, zinc compounds, methanol, and hydrochloric acid, are exempt from the Mexican reporting system (RETC). As a result, once these pollutants are transferred across the border-for example when zinc is transferred from the United States to Mexico for disposal or recycling-they cannot be tracked.

Data for the public wastewater treatment sector offer a clear example of inconsistencies among national reporting requirements, and under-reporting: this sector accounted for 84% of all reported Canadian discharges to water in 2006; in the United States, the public wastewater treatment sector is exempt from TRI reporting; and in Mexico, although facilities discharging to national water bodies are required to report to RETC, very few wastewater treatment plants did so in 2006.

Progress is being made by governments to close these gaps-such as removing exemptions for sectors and adding substances subject to PRTR reporting.

For example, Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory removed the exemption for disposal of mining tailings and waste rock, which should result in an increase in reporting by Canadian mines next year. Considering the data reported in 2006 by US metal mines, this step is potentially significant for better understanding industries’ releases and handling of pollutants of particular concern.

Metal mines in the states of Alaska, Nevada, Utah and Arizona, for example, reported releases to land-often in waste piles or uncovered areas-of millions of kilograms of heavy metals including lead and mercury compounds, both of which are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic pollutants.

Today’s release of online PRTR data and analytical tools will be complemented with further analyses and information in the CEC’s Taking Stock report to be released later this year. It will feature a special analysis of North American industrial pollutant releases to water, with a more detailed look at the sources and amounts as well as their potential impacts on the environment. Last year’s Taking Stock report provided an in-depth look at pollutant reporting from North American’s petroleum industry.



Paris challenge shows electric car’s power

The electric Citroen Berlingo arrived in Paris after a 13,565 km journey that began in Shanghai two months ago.

By Helen Massy-Beresford, Reuters
Wed, Jul 14 2010 at 6:51 AM EST
EMMISSIONS-FREE: With European emissions rules tightening, many carmakers are pushing electric technology, and electric models from major carmakers are going on sale later this year. (Photo: jupiterimages)

PARIS – Driving into the chic Place Vendome in central Paris, lined with up market jewelers and exclusive hotels, a small orange van looked out of place on Tuesday evening amid the sleek luxury cars.

The Citroen Berlingo was remarkable not just for its diminutive size and striking color. It was arriving in the French capital after a journey of 13,565 km, that began in Shanghai two months ago. Powered by electric batteries.

The electric vehicle odyssey was masterminded by electric sports carmaker Venturi, which has a partnership with French carmaker PSA Peugeot Citroen to supply the rather more down-to-earth “Berlingo Electric First.”

Venturi, based in the tiny principality of Monaco, famous for its lavish casinos, and the Grand Prix that sees sportscars racing through its winding streets, makes the futuristic Fetish electric sports car, which sells for $381,200.

The Shanghai-Paris trip was the brainchild of two teachers, Xavier Chevrin and Geraldine Gabin, looking for an unusual adventure, and one that would not rely on petrol.

Chevrin had already crossed Papua New Guinea from south to north on foot, and traveled from Santa Fe to Los Angeles on horseback.

Venturi agreed to provide the car, but CEO Gildo Pallanca Pastor was adamant the little van should make the trip alone, without a support car, to dispel some of the doubts about electric cars.

With European emissions rules tightening, many carmakers are pushing electric technology, and electric models from major carmakers are going on sale later this year in Europe.

But drivers are skeptical about the limited range of an electric car between charges, and worried they will find themselves stranded far from a power socket.

Chevrin and Gabin, who set off from Shanghai on May 3 and suffered just one flat tire during the trip, never found themselves stuck with nowhere to charge up, but found it trickier in Western China and Kazakhstan, Chevrin said.

Finding the right voltage for a quick, 6-7 hour charge was a challenge sometimes, he said. They paid for the electricity they used, and a full charge usually cost around three euros.
Although the car, which is powered by nickel sodium chloride batteries, could in theory cover up to 500 km on a single charge, the 400 km that the pair covered most days, on sometimes badly surfaced roads, “was more than enough,” Chevrin said.

Their record was 430 kilometers between charges, as they entered the Gobi desert region.

The Berlingo the pair drove had an enhanced battery pack — the vans Venturi and Citroen are supplying to companies will have a range of 120 km.

Venturi and Citroen will supply 1,500 of the electric vehicles to various European companies for their fleets. France’s La Poste has ordered 250 and deliveries will start at the end of August, Pallanca Pastor said.

Asked if the two groups might consider extending their partnership, Pallanca Pastor, who bought Venturi in 2001, said “it’s very possible we could do something later … we have a partnership agreement that could be extended.”

For the time being, increasing electric vehicle volumes is key, he said. “The more we move toward more significant volumes, the more we can offset our investments.” Peugeot and Citroen are due to introduce the Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero electric cars, both based on partner Mitsubishi’s iMiEV to Europe later this year.

Venturi also has plans to show an electric vehicle destined for Antarctica at the Paris Auto Show later this year, and is also considering a presence in China.

The next big challenge for Venturi is in the United States — Pallanca Pastor, who raced for 12 years, and is himself a world speed record holder for driving on ice — is going for an electric vehicle speed record.

A Venturi electric vehicle will in August attempt to exceed 500 km per hour.

And Pallanca Pastor said there may be more adventures.

“The success of this epic journey makes us want to do something more.”



10 of the smallest homes in the world

A truly ‘eco’ abode

From energy expenditure to building materials, living in a smaller house is one of the best ways to reduce your ecological footprint. Giving up the luxury of space and living more minimally isn’t always easy, but it does come with a few perks: fewer possessions, bigger skies and open spaces! Plus, a smaller house makes it easier to cozy up to your loved ones. You’ll learn more about Paul Elkin’s compact cycle home in a few more clicks. Meanwhile, here’s a reminder that bigger isn’t always better: 10 of the tiniest homes in the world. (Text: Bryan Nelson)

A truly 'eco' abode - one of the world's smallest homes

A truly 'eco' abode - one of the world's smallest homes

Tumbleweed Houses

Though tiny, these cozy, cabin-esque home designs somehow fit everything you need inside them: a workspace, bedroom, bathroom (with toilet and shower) and living space. Some designs include a porch so the homeowner can sit out and enjoy the open spaces.

Tumbleweed Houses

Since 1997, Jay Shafer of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company has been living in homes smaller than most people’s closets. Though tiny, these cozy, cabin-esque home designs somehow fit everything you need inside them: a workspace, bedroom, bathroom (with toilet and shower) and living space. Some designs include a porch so the homeowner can sit out and enjoy the open spaces.



My Note –

I like this one and the concept –

although the one above is very, very cute.

– cricketdiane


Rollit Homes

Rollit Homes Students at the University of Karlsruhe in Germany designed these chic modular homes, which are built to incorporate multiple uses inside one small living space. The home functions like a mouse on a wheel; the homeowner can change the structure of the house by walking in the center to rotate it. With just a little bit of daily exercise, the unit can be turned to reveal a bed, lounge chair, table, shower, toilet, or a kitchen sink — all in the same space!





Single Hauz

[Image: The Single Hauz by front architects].

Like an inhabitable billboard, the Single Hauz – by Poland’s front architects – proposes cantilevering domestic living space from a central mast. The house can then be installed above a variety of ground conditions, from the middle of a meadow to an urban core.
Personally… I’d put it in a lake.

[Images: The Single Hauz by front architects].

The cool thing is that I’ve actually spent the last 11 months of my life staring up at some of the Herculean billboard structures out here in Los Angeles; they tower over intersections on streets from Venice to Sepulveda and often seem as large as houses.
But how much weight could a billboard carry?

[Image: The Single Hauz by front architects].

Could you build a house up there?
Could you use the mast-and-cantilever model for other types of architectural structures, whether those are single-family houses – whole cul-de-sacs lined with modernist billboard homes! – or even restaurants and public libraries?
The Single Hauz shows how beautiful the effect could be.

[Image: The Single Hauz by front architects].

For more projects by front architects, check out their website (though I couldn’t find any information in English).

(With huge thanks to a commenter named munditia, who first pointed out this project to me).

Posted Friday, August 24, 2007 • 35 comment(s)




From Tumbleweed Homes –



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117 square feet How do you measure square feet?
Ready made: $49,997 Build it yourself: $21,250

The Lusby

The Lusby is popular for its downstairs bedroom with extra loft sleeping above. The kitchen/main room has vaulted ceilings which make this tiny house feel much larger than it really is. The outside can be finished with board and baton siding, cedar plank (shown above) or corrugated aluminum (see Tarleton). The roof is covered with corrugated aluminum – and yes, you can hear the rain. The interior is completely finished in pine with stainless steel counters. The bathroom has a full shower, toilet and sink.

Living Room

The “living room” is shared with the kitchen, and is warmed by the stainless steel fireplace. The open ceiling above makes the space feel very roomy. The entry to the living room is flanked by two full size closets perfect for storing clothes.


The custom built kitchenette runs the length of the living room and features a sink, 2 burner stove top, and refrigerator. Below the sink, there is a small water heater.

Can I add a dishwasher or laundry to the kitchen?
The kitchen is too small to add any more appliances.


The main downstairs bedroom is a little less than 4′ wide. It is great for sleeping one person, but a tight fit for two people. The loft can also be used for sleeping and comfortably fits a queen sized mattress. Because the loft is open, a conventional mattress can be easily put inside. At its peak, the loft height is 3′-8″.


The Lusby is our only house on wheels that features a full bathroom with shower, toilet and hand sink. The small water heater allows one to take a warm 5 minute shower. The toilet is a low flush RV toilet designed to conserve water. You can easily substitute a composting toilet.

Efficient and Warm

The Lusby features a stainless steel fireplace which keeps this house warm in temperatures -35 F. Because of its small size, its 16R insulation is sufficient to keep this house warm in the harshest of climates of the continental US and Southern Canada. Heading north of Southern Canada? You can easily install a larger heater, or second heater. All four walls, the floor and the roof are insulated using polystyrene foam board which can withstand the rigors of road travel.

Can I add air conditioning?
Yes, a small ceiling a/c unit can be added to keep the house cool in any climate within the US.


This house is built on an 7′ x 18′ utility trailer. See spec sheet.
To learn more about utility trailers, read this…
Here is a list of stores that sell the trailer needed to build the Lusby.

Do I have to build it on a trailer?
Because of its tiny size, it doesn’t meet the minimum size standards required for houses on a foundation. That said, it can be built as a shed (without a kitchen) on a foundation.

Learn more: Connecting to utilities, Purchasing a house, Building a house