The Interesting History of Target



Quite a few retail corporations dominate the consumer-driven market in today’s world. There’s of course the world-famous Walmart, alongside others like Costco, Kroger, and Walgreens. One of these is the instantly recognizable Target. With a red target logo, Target stores are found all over the US with 1,862 stores across the nation. Target is not just confined to the US though, and has international stores as well. In this feature we will take a closer look at the history of Target, how it started, how it grew, and how it reached its modern-day state.

Dayton Dry Goods Company

In 1893, a certain church burned down in downtown Minneapolis. As the church lacked the funds to rebuild itself and asked for help, an active parishioner by the name of George Dayton decided to purchase a plot of land adjacent to the church so it could rebuild. Dayton ended up constructing a 6-storey building and started looking for tenants. In 1902, George Dayton succeeded in convincing the Reuben Simon Goodfellow Company to move its Goodfellows department store into his newly constructed building. The owner of the company decided to retire, and sold his company to George Dayton, who promptly renamed it Dayton Dry Goods Company. Renamed to Dayton Company in 1910, George Dayton ran the store as a family enterprise, and refused to sell alcohol or even advertise in newspapers that featured liquor ads due to his strict Presbyterianism beliefs. The store also remained closed on Sundays.

The Following Years Of Dayton Company

By the time the 1920s rolled around, Dayton Company was a multimillion Dollar business still housed within that 6-storey building. Though Dayton Company’s jewelry store remained at a loss during the Great Depression, the department store was able to thrive and come out still operational. George Dayton passed away in 1938 and his son Nelson took over the company. Nelson continued to uphold his father’s Presbyterianism guidelines and traditions along with the strict running of the store. During World War II, the store focused on keeping its shelves stocked and consequently drove up revenue.

In 1944, Dayton Company became one of the first stores in the US to offer its workers retirement benefits. 1950 saw Nelson pass away as well, leaving his son Donald to inherit the company. Donald however, instead of running the company alone as had been tradition up to that point, enlisted the assistance of four of his cousins as well. Shortly after, all of George Dayton’s grandsons had acquired positions of leadership within the country. Donald also did away with the Presbyterianism guidelines that had been the company’s policies for so long, and took a more secular approach to running the business. The Dayton Company started to sell alcohol as well as operate on Sundays, and introduced a more costly and innovative form of management. The company finally classified as a retail chain when it opened its second store in Southdale

Target Is Born

In 1960, an idea was put forth to develop a new kind of mass-market discount store. The visionary behind this concept, a successful businessman named John F. Geisse, called it ‘upscale discount retailing’. Though the leadership was wary at first, they gave in and publicly announced in 1991 that the Dayton Company will be unveiling a new discount store chain soon. Target got its first four stores in Minnesota, operated in loss for a few years, and then made gains in 1965, allowing it to open its fifth store, situated in Minnesota as well. In 1966, Target expanded outside Minnesota and opened two new stores in Denver, Colorado, and reached sales of $60 million.

Target refined its logo in 1968, and expanded into Missouri as well by opening two new stores in St. Louis. When 1968 reached its end, Target had eleven stores and equaled $130 million in salles. In 1969, thanks to strategic acquisitions, Target expanded into Pennsylvania as well as the New England region. It also opened stores in the states of Texas and Oklahoma, and Target’s first distribution center was built in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Dayton Company merged with J.L. Hudson Company, and became known as the Dayton-Hudson Corporation. Target and Dayton-Hudson Corporation continued to expand and acquire their way into other states, and some Dayton-Hudson stores reopened as Target stores.

Fast Growth And Expansion

In the year 1975, Target had 49 stores and $511 million in sales. That same year, Target managed to open even four more stores and crossed $600 million in sales, becoming the largest revenue producer for the Dayton-Hudson Corporation. In 1980 Target opened an astounding 17 new stores, and expanded into Tennessee and Kansas. This rapid expansion only kept increasing exponentially, and in 1982, Target acquired 33 stores in Arizona, Texas, and California. It also opened its fourth distribution center in Los Angeles. Soon after, the chain had 167 stores and $2.41 billion in sales. In 1986, Target acquired 50 stores in California, making it the dominant retailer in the region. 1987 saw Target expanding into Michigan and Nevada as well, with 317 total stores and $5.3 billion in sales.

The 90s continued to see rapid expansion into the remaining states, and by the end of the century, Target had 912 stores under its name, and $26 billion in sales. In January of 2000, the Dayton-Hudson Corporation, having sold off many of the companies it had acquired to focus on Target, renamed itself the Target Corporation. By 2003, Target had 1,225 stores and sales equaling $42 billion. In 2005, Target began operating in Bangalore, India as well. In 2011, Target announced its plans to expand into Canada, but this expansion was a horrible disaster. The first Target Canada stores were opened in 2013, and owing to a multitude of problems, all the stores had been closed by April of 2015. This botched expansion had resulted in losses of $2.1 billion.


And that pretty much covers the most interesting bits of Target’s history. It’s fascinating how a company can announce a new chain that ultimately becomes the company itself. Many huge corporations have interesting and rich histories, and Target is no exception.

Craving more retail corporate history? We have an intriguing piece on the interesting history of Walmart. Want to read up on the history of something completely unrelated instead? Why not air conditioning?

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