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Target Corporation

Target Corporation

1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403-2467
Telephone: (612) 304-6073
Fax: (612) 696-3731
Web site:

Public Company
Incorporated: 1902 as Goodfellow Dry Goods
Employees: 306,000
Sales: $43.92 billion (2002)
Stock Exchanges: New York Pacific
Ticker Symbol: TGT
NAIC: 452110 Department Stores; 452910 Warehouse Clubs and Superstores; 452990 All Other General Merchandise Stores; 454110 Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses

Target Corporation is the fourth largest retailer in the United States, operating 1,556 stores in 47 states. Formerly Dayton Hudson Corporation, Target has three main retail divisions: Target Stores, Mervyn's, and Marshall Field's. Target Stores is the number two discount retailer in the country, trailing only Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and has distinguished itself from its competitors by offering upscale, fashion-conscious products at affordable prices. The 1,225 Target stores, which are located in 47 states, generated 84 percent of Target's fiscal 2002 revenues. Included in this store count are Target Greatland units, which are much larger than the typical Target store, averaging 145,000 square feet versus 126,000 square feet; as well as SuperTarget outlets, which are combined discount/grocery stores, averaging 175,000 square feet. Generating 9 percent of 2002 revenues were Mervyn's 267 stores situated in 14 states, primarily in the West, Southwest, and Midwest (specifically Minnesota and Michigan). Based in the San Francisco Bay area, Mervyn's positions itself as a chain of moderately priced, family friendly, neighborhood department stores. Target Corporation's full-service department store division, contributor of 6 percent of sales, is now consolidated under the Marshall Field's banner. The 62 Marshall Field's stores (which include locations that formerly operated under the Dayton's and J.L. Hudson's names) are located in eight states in the upper Midwest, with the majority found within three metropolitan areas: Minneapolis, Chicago, and Detroit. Target Corporation's philanthropy has been and still is legendary. In 1989 the corporation received the America's Corporate Conscience Award for its magnanimity, and Target contributes more than $2 million each week to the communities in which its stores are located.

Early Years

Target Corporation bears the strong imprint of its founder, George Draper Dayton. Dayton's father, a physician in New York state, could not afford to send him to college, in part because the doctor freely gave his services to the poor. Hence Dayton set off on his own in 1873 at age 16 to work in a coal and lumberyard. A workaholic, he undermined his health and a year later had to return to the family home to recuperate. Undeterred, he went on to become a banker. Less than ten years later, in 1883, he was rich enough to buy the Bank of Worthington in Minnesota. Meanwhile he had married and had become active in the Presbyterian Church.

Dayton's connection with the Presbyterian Church proved to be instrumental to the rise of his Dayton Company. In 1893, the year of a recession that sent local real estate prices tumbling, the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis burned down. The insurance did not cover the cost of a new building, and the only other source of income, a corner lot next to the demolished church, was unsalable because the real estate market was doing poorly. The congregation prevailed on the Dayton family, who were faithful members of the church, to purchase it so the building of a new church could proceed. Dayton bought it and eventually erected a six-story building on the lot. Casting about for tenants, he decided to buy the nearby Goodfellow Dry Goods store and set it up in the new building. In the spring of 1902 the store was known as the Goodfellow Dry Goods store; in 1903 the corporate name was changed to Dayton Dry Goods Company, then seven years later simply Dayton Company, the forerunner of Dayton Hudson Corporation and, ultimately, Target Corporation.

Eventually the store would expand to fill the six-story edifice. Dayton, with no previous experience in the retail trade, wielded tight control of the company until his death in 1938. His principles of thrift and sobriety and his connections as a banker enabled the company to grow. As long as he was at the helm, the store was run as a family enterprise. Every Christmas Eve he would hand out candy to each employee of the store. Obsessed with punctuality, he was known to lock the doors at the onset of a meeting, forcing latecomers to wait and apologize to him in person afterwards. The store was run on strict Presbyterian guidelines: no liquor was sold, the store was closed on Sunday, no business travel or advertising was permitted on the Sabbath, and Dayton Company refused to advertise in a newspaper that sponsored liquor ads.

This approach did not stifle business; Dayton Company became extremely successful. A multimillion-dollar business by the 1920s, Dayton Company decided it was ready to expand, purchasing J.B. Hudson & Son, a Minneapolis-based jeweler, in 1929, just two months before the historic stock market crash.

Dayton Company managed to weather the Great Depression, although its jewelry company operated in the red for its duration. Dayton's son David had died in 1923 at age 43, and George turned more and more of the company business over to another son, Nelson. George Draper Dayton died in 1938. He left only a modest personal fortune, having given away millions of dollars to charity. In 1918 the Dayton Foundation had been established with $1 million.

Nelson Dayton took over the presidency of Dayton Company in 1938, when it was already a $14 million business, and saw it grow to a $50 million enterprise. World War II did not hamper business; rather, Dayton's turned the war into an asset. Consumer goods were so scarce that it was no longer necessary to persuade shoppers to buy what merchandise was available. Sales volume increased dramatically thanks to Dayton's managers, who obtained goods to keep the store full. Nelson Dayton was scrupulous about complying with the government's wartime control of business and when, for instance, the government carried out its drive for scrap metal, he ordered the store's electric sign dismantled and added to the scrap heap. Until Nelson Dayton's death in 1950, the company was run along the strict moral lines of his father, its founder. In January 1944 Dayton's became one of the first stores in the nation to offer its workers a retirement policy, followed in 1950 by a comprehensive insurance policy.

Shedding Conservative Image, Launching Target: 1950s60s

With Nelson Dayton's death in 1950, Dayton Company embarked on a new era. Instead of one-man rule, the company was led by a team of five Dayton cousins, although one of them, Nelson's son Donald Dayton, assumed the title of president. The prohibition of liquor in the store's dining rooms was dropped, and soon Dayton Company would be completely secularized, advertising and doing business on Sunday.

The new management of Dayton Company undertook radical and costly innovations. In 1954 the J.L. Hudson Company, which would eventually merge with Dayton's, opened the world's largest shopping mall in suburban Detroit. It was a great success, and two years later Dayton Company decided to build a mall on a 500-acre plot of land outside of Minneapolis. Horrified to learn that Minneapolis had only 113 good shopping days a year, the architect decided to build a mall under cover; Southdale, the first fully enclosed shopping mall in history, was the result, with Dayton's as one of its anchor stores.

The safe, conservative management style favored by George Draper Dayton and his son Nelson passed into history; a younger, more aggressive management pushed for radical expansion and innovation would follow in its wake. The company established the discount chain Target in 1962, opening the first unit in Roseville, Minnesota, and in 1966 decided to enter the highly competitive market of retail bookselling, opening B. Dalton Bookstores.

In 1967 the company changed its name to Dayton Corporation and made its first public stock offering. That year, it also acquired San Francisco's Shreve and Company, which merged with J.B. Hudson to form Dayton Jewelers. In 1968 it bought the Pickwick Book Shops in Los Angeles and merged them with B. Dalton. Also in 1968 the company acquired department stores in Oregon and Arizona. The following year brought the acquisition of J.E. Caldwell, a Philadelphia-based chain of jewelry stores, and Lechmere, a Boston retailer.

Acquiring Hudson's, Mervyn's, and Marshall Field's: 196990

The year 1969 also saw a major acquisition: the Detroitbased J.L. Hudson Company, a department store chain that had been in existence since 1881. The merger resulted in Dayton Hudson Corporation, the 14th largest retailer in the United States. Dayton Hudson stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

With the merger, the Dayton Foundation changed its name to the Dayton Hudson Foundation. Since 1946, 5 percent of Dayton Company's taxable income was donated to the foundation, which continued to be the case after the merger. The foundation inspired the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce in 1976 to establish the Minneapolis 5% Club, which eventually included 23 companies, each donating 5 percent of their respective taxable incomes to charities. By the close of 1996 the foundation had donated over $352 million to social and artsbased programs.

Dayton Hudson bought two more jewelers in 1970C.D. Peacock, Inc., of Chicago, and J. Jessop and Sons of San Diego. Company revenues surpassed $1 billion in 1971.

California-based Mervyn's, a line of moderate-price department stores, merged with Dayton Hudson in 1978. That year Dayton Hudson became the seventh largest general merchandise retailer in the United States, its revenues by 1979 topping $3 billion. Also in 1979 the Target chain become Dayton Hudson's largest producer of revenue, eclipsing the department stores upon which the firm was founded.

Company Perspectives:

Target Corporation is a growth company focused exclusively on general merchandise retailing. Our principal operating strategy is to provide exceptional value to American consumers through multiple retail formats ranging from upscale discount and moderate-priced to full-service department stores.

Dayton Hudson bought Ayr-Way, an Indianapolis-based chain of 50 discount stores, in 1980, and converted those units to Target stores. In 1982 the company sold Dayton Hudson Jewelers to Henry Birks & Sons Ltd. of Montreal, and in 1986 it sold B. Dalton to Barnes & Noble, Inc. In 1984, meantime, the operations of the company's two full-service department stores were combined into a new unit called the Dayton Hudson Department Store Company, though the Dayton's and Hudson's units themselves retained their separate identities. Revenues topped the $10 billion mark in 1987.

The late 1980s found the company the focus of an unsolicited takeover bid by the Dart Group, which would involve lawsuits by both parties before a stock market crash in October 1987 ended the takeover attempt. A second attempt at takeover of the company would be made nine years later, when rival J.C. Penney Company, Inc. offered more than $6.5 billion for the retailer. The offer, which analysts considered an undervaluation of the company's worth, was rebuffed. Meanwhile, Dayton Hudson continued its acquisitions, purchasing Marshall Field & Company from BATUS Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of B.A.T. Industries PLC, in 1990 for about $1 billion. Venerable Marshall Field's was as much a landmark in the Chicago area as Dayton's was in Minneapolis and the Hudson's stores were in Detroit; the acquisition added 24 department stores to Dayton Hudson's Department Store division while also doubling its department store retail space.

Launching Target Greatland, SuperTargets, and the Target Guest Card: 199095

While the Dayton's, Hudson's, and Marshall Field's department stores offered the monied customer more costly and sophisticated merchandise, the popular Target and Mervyn's catered to the budget-conscious customer, offering apparel and recreational items on a self-service basis. With the approach of the 21st century, Target continued to be Dayton Hudson Corporation's biggest moneymaker, combining a successful business mix of clean, easy-to-navigate stores with quality, trendresponsive merchandise. The year 1990 saw the opening of the first of over 50 expanded Target Greatland stores; in 1995, following the lead of such rivals as Wal-Mart and Kmart, the company opened its first SuperTarget, which combined the chain's successful general merchandise mix with a grocery store. Along with expanding its traditional department stores along the East Coast, six new SuperTargets were planned for 1996 alone. Also introduced in 1995 was the Target Guest Card, the first store credit card in the discount retail industry. By 1998 the Guest Card had attracted nine million accounts.

The proliferation of shopping malls and the recessionary economy of the early 1990s caused sharp changes in consumer spending patterns throughout the United States. By 1996 the country could boast 4.97 billion square feet of retail spacean average of 19 square feet per person nationwidebut retailers felt the pinch caused by such a large number of stores courting increasingly spending-shy consumers. This situation most negatively affected the mid-range and upper-range sales volumes generated by stores on the level of Mervyn's, Dayton's, Marshall Field's, and Hudson's. In response, Dayton Hudson developed new merchandising, customer service, and advertising strategies in an effort to stabilize these units' falling sales volumes. Mervyn's focused greater reliance upon national brands, coupling this with the growing use of print advertising and market expansion through the acquisition of six Jordan Marsh stores and five Lord & Taylor stores in south Florida. Dayton's, Hudson's, and Marshall Field's courted the upscale consumer through an increased mix of unique, quality merchandise, an increased emphasis on customer service, and an increased sales-floor staff, all of which heralded a return to the "old-fashioned service" on which Dayton Hudson was founded. Meanwhile, the Department Store unit worked to reduce inventories and invest in remodeling and technologically enhancing some of its older stores.

Key Dates:

George Draper Dayton opens the Goodfellow Dry Goods store in a six-story building in downtown Minneapolis.
Corporate name is changed to Dayton Dry Goods Company.
Name is shortened to Dayton Company.
Dayton dies; his son Nelson takes over the $14 million business.
Company builds the world's first fully enclosed shopping mall, called Southdale, located in suburban Minneapolis.
The discount Target chain is launched.
Company changes its name to Dayton Corporation and makes its first public stock offering.
Dayton merges with the Detroit-based J.L. Hudson Company department store chain, forming Dayton Hudson Corporation.
Dayton Hudson acquires the California-based Mervyn's chain of moderate-priced department stores.
The Target chain becomes Dayton Hudson's largest producer of revenue.
Marshall Field & Company, a Chicago-based department store operator, is acquired.
The first SuperTarget combined discount/grocery store opens; the Target Guest Card, the first store credit card in the discount retail industry, makes its debut.
As part of e-commerce push, Rivertown Trading Company, a Twin Cities-based mail-order firm, is acquired.
Reflecting the increasing importance of its discount chain, Dayton Hudson renames itself Target Corporation; Target Direct is formed as a separate ecommerce unit.
The names of the Dayton's and Hudson's department stores are changed to Marshall Field's.

Reaching New Heights Under Ulrich: Late 1990s and Beyond

In 1994 Target executive Robert J. Ulrich was named chairman and CEO of Dayton Hudson. In that same year the company began a new strategy: developing a "boundaryless" corporate structure wherein resources and marketing and management expertise could be shared by each of the three divisions to create a more efficient organization. In 1996 Ulrich launched a three-year program to cut $200 million in annual operating expenses, particularly at the underperforming Mervyn's and department store units.

By early 1997 the Dayton Hudson Corporation consisted of three major autonomously run operating units: Target, with 735 discount stores in 38 states, represented the company's primary area of growth; the moderately priced Mervyn's chain operated 300 stores in 16 states, and the upscale Department Store Company operated 22 Hudson's, 19 Dayton's, and 26 Marshall Field's stores. Such broad-based expansion from the first sixstory building in which Dayton was housed no doubt would have stunned the company's founder. Capital expansion, as well as more varied retailing, had taken their place alongside the old policies of thrift and sobriety.

During 1997, as part of its drive to turn around the Mervyn's chain, Dayton Hudson sold off or closed 35 Mervyn's outlets, including all of that chain's stores in Florida and Georgia. The late 1990s also saw a retrenchment on the department store front, as Dayton Hudson sold its Marshall Field's stores in Texas and also closed its Marshall Field's store in downtown Milwaukee.

Dayton Hudson also continued its efforts to give back to the communities that it served. During 1997 the corporation and its retail divisions made grants of approximately $39 million, including $2.8 million in scholarships that were given to high school seniors who had been involved in their communities. That year, the Target chain launched its Take Charge of Education program, which quickly became one of the corporation's most popular community support efforts. The program allowed Target Guest Card holders to sign up the school of their choice to receive 1 percent of their Guest Card purchase amounts. Within two years, more than 300,000 schools were registered and more than $800,000 had been given to these schools.

Ulrich's cost-cutting efforts, the trimming of Mervyn's and Marshall Field's, andmost importantlythe juggernaut that Target had grown into combined to bring unprecedented levels of profitability to Dayton Hudson by the end of the 1990s. While revenues increased to $33.7 billion by fiscal 1999, net income passed the $1 billion mark for the first time, reaching $1.14 billion, translating into a profit margin of 3.4 percent. This represented a near tripling of the 1996 profits of $463 million and a near doubling of the profit margin that year, 1.8 percent. These results were driven primarily by the Target chain, which had become one of the hottest commodities in retailing. Ulrich had concentrated on making Target a hip chain featuring stylish products at bargain prices. For example, in early 1999 the chain began selling top-end Calphalon cookware and also launched a line of stylish small appliances and household goods designed by architect Michael Gravesthe latter line becoming so popular that it quickly grew to include more than 500 items. Through such innovations Ulrich succeeded in clearly setting Target apart from its discount competitorseven leading some customers/fans to use a fancy French pronunciation of the chain's name: Tar-zhay. Meantime, the chain continued to grow at the rate of about 70 stores per year, expanding into the key urban areas of Chicago and New York City, as well as making a more widespread push into the Northeast. As a result, the 900-strong Target chain was generating more than three-quarters of Dayton Hudson's revenues by decade's end, compared to around half ten years earlier. The growing predominance of the discount chain led the corporation to rename itself Target Corporation in January 2000.

During this same period the corporation quietly developed an e-commerce strategy that involved managing its own online distribution. It bought Rivertown Trading Company, a Twin Cities-based mail-order firm, in 1998 for $120 million to handle fulfillment, marketing, and distribution services for the e-commerce efforts of all the corporation's retail units. Online retailing gained a larger profile in early 2000 with the formation of a separate e-commerce unit called Target Direct. New store brand web sites were launched later that year.

The Internet push also played a role in more name changes. In January 2001 the corporation announced that it would change the names of its Dayton's and Hudson's department stores to Marshall Field's. Target was planning to launch an online gift registry during 2001 and wanted to do so under a unified department store name. Marshall Field's was chosen for several reasons: it was the most widely known of the three names, its base of Chicago was bigger than both Minneapolis and Detroit and was a major travel hub, and it was the largest chain, with 24 stores, compared to 19 Dayton's and 21 Hudson's.

At Target Stores (the official name of the discount division), meantime, use of the Target Guest Card began to plateau as consumers gravitated more to third-party Visa and MasterCard cards, cutting their use of private-label cards. Testing began on a Target Visa card in the fall of 2000, and by early 2003 nearly six million Guest Card accounts had been converted to the new Visa card. The Target chain itself kept expanding in the early 2000s, adding 62 discount stores to the total as well as 32 new SuperTarget stores during fiscal 2002, bringing the overall total to nearly 1,150 and the SuperTarget count to around 100. By this time, the Target Stores division was generating 84 percent of the parent company's revenues. Profits reached $1.65 billion, despite the continuing struggles of the Mervyn's and Marshall Field's divisions, where earnings were on the decline. Rumors continued to swirl about the possible divestment of one or both of these divisions, neither one of which was adding to its store count (Marshall Field's in fact sold its two stores in Columbus, Ohio, in 2003). Ulrich consistently denied such rumors, however, and thus far the stellar success of the Target Stores division had more than made up for the disappointing performance of Target Corporation's other retail units.

Principal Subsidiaries

The Associated Merchandising Corporation; Dayton's Commercial Interiors, Inc.

Principal Divisions

Target Stores; Mervyn's; Marshall Field's; Target Financial Services;

Principal Competitors

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; Kmart Corporation; J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.; Sears, Roebuck and Co.; Federated Department Stores, Inc.; The May Department Stores Company; The TJX Companies, Inc.; Kohl's Corporation; Dillard's, Inc.; Nordstrom, Inc.; Saks Incorporated; Ross Stores, Inc.

Further Reading

Apgar, Sally, "Dayton Hudson at Crossroads: CEO Ulrich Still Struggling to Jump-Start Mervyn's Stores," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, July 23, 1995, p. 1A.

Berner, Robert, "Dayton Hudson's Once-Fashionable Stores Tread Water," Wall Street Journal, August 1, 1996, p. B4.

Borden, Mark, "Shoppers Love Target, but Shareholders Are Seeing Red," Fortune, September 18, 2000, pp. 64, 68.

Branch, Shelly, "Hot Target Got Hot," Fortune, May 24, 1999, pp. 16970, 172, 174.

Chakravarty, Subrata N., "Planning for the Upturn," Forbes, December 23, 1991, pp. 48+.

Chandler, Susan, "'Speed Is Life' at Dayton Hudson," Business Week, March 27, 1995, pp. 8485.

, "Under the Gun at Dayton Hudson," Business Week, May 20, 1996, pp. 66+.

Clark, Evan, "Is Target Cooling?: Slow Growth Feared at Hot Discounter," Women's Wear Daily, September 30, 2002, pp. 1+.

Conlin, Michelle, "Mass with Class," Forbes, January 11, 1999, pp. 5051.

Dayton, George Draper, II, Our Story: With Histories of the Dayton, McDonald, and Winchell Families, Wayzata, Minn., 1987.

Facenda, Vanessa L., "Is Target Becoming Too Trendy?," Retail Merchandiser, December 2002, pp. 19+.

Gill, Penny, "Macke Maps Plan for Dayton Hudson," Stores, November 1991, pp. 28+.

Halverson, Richard, "Target Powers Dayton Hudson's Growth," Discount Stores News, June 19, 1995, pp. 21+.

Levy, Melissa, "An Old Firm, a New Name: Target Corp.," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, January 14, 2000, p. 1A.

Moore, Janet, "Dayton Hudson: Wall Street's Darling," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, March 15, 1998, p. 1A.

, "The Store Formerly Known As Dayton's: Dayton's and Hudson's Department Stores to Use Marshall Field's Name," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, January 13, 2001, p. 1A.

Rowley, Laura, On Target: How the World's Hottest Retailer Hit a Bullseye, Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2003.

St. Anthony, Neal, "Behind the Bull's-Eye: Bob Ulrich Transformed Target, but the Chain Still Faces Tough Competition," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, November 30, 2003, p. 1D.

Webber, Oscar, J.L. Hudson: The Man and the Store, New York: Newcomen Society in North America, 1954.

Sina Dubovoj

updates: Pamela L. Shelton,

David E. Salamie

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Target Corporation

Target Corporation

777 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 370-6948

For years, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and Kmart Corporation (see entries) dominated the discount retailing industry, offering low prices on a wide range of goods. Few people considered these companies or their smaller competitors trendy: shoppers came looking for bargains, not style. In recent years, however, Target has emerged as a different kind of discount store. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Target offers goods that are higher in quality than its competitors, and its customers tend to be younger and wealthier than typical discount shoppers. Loyal Target customers even gave the store's name a French pronunciation"Tarjay"reflecting their belief that the store has more class than other stores.

Target was once just a small piece of the much larger Dayton Hudson Corporation, a retailer with roots in the late nineteenth century. In 2000, Dayton Hudson (DH) officials renamed the company, the Target Corporation. By doing so, they acknowledged the importance that discount retailing played in their corporate make-up. In the early twenty-first century, Target Corporation was building more Target stores and expanding into Internet commerce. It also attempted to strengthen its department store division, Marshall Field's.

The Glory Days of the Department Store

Marshall Field's, the last chain to join the former Dayton Hudson Corporation, is the oldest of the retail stores in today's Target Corporation. Massachusetts native Marshall Field settled in Chicago, Illinois, in 1856 and began working as a clerk in a dry-goods store. At the time, these store usually sold cloth, ready-made clothes, and small items. Within a few years, Field was a partner in the company. In 1867, he sold his share in that dry-goods firm to buy an interest in its largest competitor. In 1881, the store was renamed Marshall Field's, and it became Chicago's most prominent retailer.

That same year, J. L. Hudson (1846-1912) of Detroit, Michigan, opened his first store, selling boys' and men's clothing. As his business grew, Hudson added more products and built bigger stores, leading to his showcase Hudson's in downtown Detroit. Like other department stores, Hudson's offered a wide variety of quality merchandise. By the 1920s, Hudson's was the third-largest department store in the United States, behind Macy's of New York and Marshall Field's. Additions to the main store eventually made it the tallest department store in the country.

Target at a Glance

  • Employees: 281,000
  • CEO: Robert j. Ulrich
  • Subsidiaries: Associated Merchandising Corporation; Bullseye Corporation; Capitol Lounge Corporation; Dayton Development Corporation; Dayton's Sioux Falls, Inc.; Eight Street Development Company; Marshall Field Stores, Inc.; Mervyn's, Inc.; Retail Properties, Inc.; Retailers National Bank, N. A.; Target Connect, Inc.; Target Services, Inc.; Target Stores, Inc.
  • Major Competitors: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.; Kmart Corporation; Sears, Roebuck & Company; May Department Stores; Federated Department Stores; j. C. Penney Company, Inc.; Kohl's Corporation; Dillard's Inc.; Saks, Inc.
  • Notable Stores and Companies: Target; SuperTarget; Marshall Field's; Mervyn's;; Signals; Wireless; Seasons

In 1902, George Dayton (1857-1938) was the landlord of the Goodfellows dry-goods store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The next year, the company hit hard times, and Dayton took over the business, renaming it the Dayton Dry Goods Company, then later shortening the name to the Dayton Company. Dayton's, Hudson's, and Marshall Field's were not direct competitors; they were regional stores that dominated their home cities and slowly spread out into the surrounding areas. But the stores did have local competition, and each tried to set high standards for service and merchandise. Each store also tried to offer customers unique touches. In its main store, Hudson's had five restaurants where customers could eat and relax. Marshall Field's was known for its Frango mints, chocolate candies sold nowhere else. In Minnesota, Dayton's stood for high fashion and community service. Starting in 1946, Dayton began donating 5 percent of its annual profits to local charities. This tradition continues today with the Target Corporation.


A Chicago department store owned by Marshall Field is given his name; J. L. Hudson opens his first store in Detroit, Michigan.
George Draper Dayton takes control of a Minneapolis dry-goods store he renames Dayton's.
The Dayton Company begins contributing 5 percent of its profits to local organizations.
Hudson's opens the world's largest shopping center in suburban Detroit.
Dayton's opens the world's first enclosed shopping malt in suburban Minneapolis.
Dayton's opens the first Target discount store in Roseville, Minnesota.
The). L Hudson Company and the Dayton Company merge, forming the Dayton Hudson Corporation.
Dayton Hudson buys Mervyn's, a California chain.
Dayton Hudson buys Marshall Field's.
Reflecting the growth of its discount stores, Dayton Hudson changes its name to Target Corporation.
Hudson's and Dayton's department stores are renamed Marshall Field's.

From Departments to Discounts

After World War II (1939-45), more Americans began living and working in the suburbs of cities such as Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis. Families still made trips to the big department stores, but Dayton's and Hudson's saw that to keep growing, they needed to expand beyond their downtown locations. In 1954, the J. L. Hudson Company built Northland Center, the world's largest shopping center at the time. Located in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, the center featured a Hudson's surrounded by other stores. Two years later, the Dayton Company opened Southdale, a two-story, enclosed suburban shopping mallthe first of its kind in the world.

The Dayton Company helped lead another major change in the retail industry. In 1962, it opened its first Target store in Roseville, Minnesota. Target was the first store to offer national, name-brand items at discount prices. Target, however, did not have this new market to itself for long; the same year, Wal-Mart and Kmart stores also opened. Those two competitors eventually became the leaders of the industry.

Discount stores, usually located in small towns and suburbs, began to challenge the strength of many urban department-store chains. To strengthen their position, the J. L. Hudson Company and the Dayton Company merged in 1969, forming the Dayton Hudson Corporation. The new company had several dozen department stores, most in Minnesota and Michigan, along with the growing Target chain.

The Hysteria over Hose

In February 1946, Dayton's was the scene of a frenzied moment in shopping history. The store held its first postwar sale on nylon stockings, which had been taken off the market during World War II (1939-45). The U.S. government needed the strong, stretchy material to make parachutes and other military supplies. At the Dayton's nylon sale, thirteen thousand shoppers jammed the streets of Minneapolis waiting for the store to open. They bought sixty thousand pairs of nylons in just one day.

Boom Years

During the 1970s and 1980s, DH grew dramatically. The company bought several other retailers, including Mervyn's, a California chain, B. Dalton Bookseller, and Lechmere, a regional chain based in the Northeast. DH chief executive officer (CEO) William Andres led the buying binge. The expansion continued when Kenneth A. Macke took control of the company in 1983. By then, company sales had passed $5 billion, and Target stores were the main source of that revenue. The following year, DH sold two smaller department store chains and decided to put even more money into its discount business. Also in 1984, DH merged Dayton's and Hudson's into one large department store division based in Minneapolis.

Department Store Pioneers

Joseph Lowthian Hudson (1846-1912) was a thirty-five-year old English immigrant when he opened his first store in 1881. George Draper Dayton (1857-1938) was a successful banker and landowner when he took over the Goodfellows store and renamed it Dayton's. Although they had different backgrounds, Hudson and Dayton shared the goals of providing excellent service and products to their customers.

Hudson came to the United States in 1855 and settled in Detroit, Michigan, in 1877, where he went to work for retailer C. R. Mabley. When Hudson went into business for himself, his former employer was his main competition. The two store owners waged advertising wars, taking out full-page ads in the Detroit papers. By 1891, Hudson was able to build an eight-story building, which stood until the 1920s. His next store was his largest, eventually growing to more than 2 million square feet. Hudson also had an interest in Detroit's leading industry, automobile manufacturing. With several partners, he formed the Hudson Motor Company in 1909. For a time, it was the third-largest automaker in the United States. Hudson, however, never lived to see the glory days of that company: he died in 1912 on a trip to England.

Dayton was also a transplant. He was born in New York in 1857, and settled in Minnesota around 1880. Thanks to successful business dealings, he was able to buy a bank in Worthington and real estate in Minneapolis. After Dayton entered the retail business, his sons Draper and Nelson joined the firm. They eventually took over managing the store. The elder Dayton died in 1938, and in the late 1940s, the five sons of Nelson Dayton took control of the business. After the Dayton-Hudson merger in 1969, the Daytons continued to run the business until the mid 1970s.

In the retailing industry, Dayton Hudson won praise for its smart management style. It made Mervyn's a "soft-goods" store, selling mostly clothing at prices cheaper than department stores, but with better quality than the clothes sold at most discount stores. Target was known for its wide aisles and clean displays that made shopping easier than at most discount stores. The stores also tried to carry the latest fashions. In 1988, a Target executive told Women's Wear Daily, "Just because our consumer may be price-sensitive doesn't mean she is backward when it comes to fashion."

Despite continued success with Target, DH still had some problems. In 1986, profits fell for the first time in sixteen years. The next year, the company struggled to fight off a hostile takeover attempt from another retailer, the Dart Group. DH kept its independence and grew again in 1990, when it purchased Marshall Field's stores from B. A. T. Industries. Dayton Hudson paid $1.1 billiontoo high a price, according to some business experts. CEO Macke, however, told Forbes the deal was "a marriage made in heaven." The purchase made DH the major department store chain in the Midwest and added Marshall Field's prestige to the entire company.

On Target for More Growth

The Marshall Field's deal gave DH sixty-four department stores, but the company was more committed to its discount chain. In 1990, the first Target Greatland opened, featuring more floor space and products than the typical Target store. DH planned to open several more Greatlands and hundreds of Targets. By the end of the decade, DH also opened Target Superstores, which combined a Greatland with a grocery store. Target's service and style remained high, and the company made its first moves into the Northeast, becoming a national chain for the first time. Target ads featured its bulls-eye symbol, and the company referred to its customers as "guests."

Entering the twenty-first century, DH made several name changes. The corporate name change to Target was followed in 2001 with the renaming of all Dayton's and Hudson's stores to Marshall Field's. The new Target Corporation also showed its commitment to the Internet, launching in 2000. The new division handled Web commerce for the three store chainsMarshall Field's, Mervyn's, and Targetas well as for This site offers goods sold through Target's mail-order catalogs, Seasons (gifts for women), Wireless (home accessories and entertainment), and Signals (international products and items relating to history, science, and the arts).

In 2002, Target had just over one thousand stores in forty-seven states; the total number of Target Corporation stores was more than thirteen hundred. Total annual sales were almost $40 billion under CEO Robert Ulrich, who took over in 1994. Target's alliances with popular fashion designers and architects, such as Michael Graves, Marc Ecko, and Todd Oldham, boosted Target's image as the place to shop for "cheap chic." In its ads, Target promised customers they could continue to "expect more, pay less."

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Target Corporation

Target Corporation

founded: 1902

Contact Information:

headquarters: 1000 nicollet mall minneapolis, mn 55403 phone: (612)304-6073 fax: (612)304-5104 toll free: (888)304-4000 email: [email protected] url:


The Minneapolis-based Target Corporation is among the largest general merchandise companies in the United States. It employs more than 281,000 people in 47 states and operates approximately 1,400 stores nationwide.

Formerly Dayton Hudson, Target Corporation developed the concept of the "upscale discounter," and it promotes its Target stores as an inexpensive department store that offers more selection and class than similar retail outlets such as Kmart and Wal-Mart.

The Corporation is an acknowledged retail empire and the Target stores are the centerpiece of its operations. Target Corporation's three operating divisions include Target, Mervyn's, and the Department Store Division (DSD), which consists of Dayton's, Hudson's, and Marshall Field's. In 2001, the Target division generated about 80 percent of retail sales and operating profits, while Mervyn's generated about 12 percent of revenues and 8 percent of profits, and the Department Store Division generated about 9 percent of sales and 12 percent of profits.

Target Corporation has regional offices in Los Angeles, Dallas, Richmond and Minneapolis. Its distribution centers are located in Huntsville, Alabama; Maumelle, Arkansas; Fontana, California; Ontario, California; Woodland, California; Pueblo, Colorado; Tifton, Georgia; Indianapolis; Fridley, Minnesota; Albany, Oregon; Tyler, Texas; Stuarts Draft, Virginia; Oconomowoc, Wisconsin and Wilton, New York.


For the fiscal year that ended February 2, 2002, Target Corporation's revenues rose 8 percent to $39.89 million. Net income rose 9 percent to $1.37 billion. Revenues reflected increased revenues at Target due to the opening of new stores. Earnings also benefited from improved operating margins. Revenues for 1999 were $36.903 million. In 1998, they were $33.702 million. In 1997, revenues were $30.662 million, and were $27.487 million in 1996.


Overall, analysts have commented that Target has attractive value on the market because of its ability to keep capital costs within reason, which results from the fact that it does not have an excessive amount of financial leverage. A high degree of combined leverage indicates a company might be in financial trouble. Target, with its low degree of combined leverage, has lower financial risk and increased market value. The corporation's earnings per share have grown around 15 percent each year, which represents a low level of risk.

Indeed, Wall Street has liked Target's continued growth and earnings. One analyst from remarked that Target Corporation "is a wonderful company. They have a great growth vehicle in Target stores, which have a significant amount of growth potential left."

Value Line and Standard & Poor's also rated Target high because of its average earnings growth over the past decade, and they indicated the company had projections for 15 to 17 percent growth over its next five years.


The Target Corporation's history dates back to 1902, when a man named George Dayton opened a store called Goodfellows in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He changed the name of his business to the Dayton Company in 1910. Later, in 1956, the company would create a milestone in the retail industry when it built the world's first fully-enclosed shopping mall.

The seeds for the Target concept were planted in 1961, when Dayton's saw a demand for a store that sold less-expensive goods in a quick, convenient format. A year later, the first Target discount store was opened in Roseville, Minnesota. It became the first retail store to offer well-known national brands at discounted prices.

The Dayton Company initial public offering (IPO) took place in 1967. In 1969, the Target Corporation, as it is known today, really came into existence when the Dayton Company merged with Hudson Company, another department store organization, to form the Dayton-Hudson Company (DHC). Like the Dayton Company, the Hudson Company started in the early 1900s. And also like the Dayton Company, Hudson's founder became successful by replacing bargaining with price marking, and offering return privileges and liberal credit. Target now controls Dayton's and Hudson's stores along with the Target, Mervyn's, and Marshall Field's stores.

By 1971 revenues topped $1 billion, and DHC acquired Mervyn's of California to become the seventh largest retailer in the United States. During the decade, the Target stores broke new ground for the industry when they implemented electronic cash registers storewide to monitor inventory and speed up service. Target also began hosting an annual shopping event for seniors and people with disabilities.

The 1980s were marked by rapid growth. Revenues in 1982 topped $5 billion. By 1987, that figure doubled.

In 1990, DHC acquired Marshall Field's. By 1994, revenues topped $20 billion. Also during the decade, DHC launched the first Target Greatland store, and its Club Wedd bridal gift registry went nationwide in 1995. In 1996, Target's Mervyn's subsidiary was forced to cut costs or face restructuring. Within its one-year deadline, it replaced 70 percent of its senior management, improved customer services, and reintroduced discontinued product lines such as women's dresses. The efforts paid off and Mervyn's survived.

The decade also saw the opening of the first Super-Target store, which combined groceries and special services with a Target Greatland store. The Target Guest Card was also introduced during that period. In the meantime, revenues kept climbing. In 1996, they hit $25 billion. In 1998, they reached $30 billion. That same year DHC acquired Rivertown Trading, the direct marketing company. In 1999 the company ventured into e-commerce when was launched.

In 2000 DHC changed its name to Target Corporation. Early that same year,, the direct merchandising and electronic retailing organization of Target Corporation, was launched. The enterprise involved the merging of Target's e-commerce team with its direct merchandising unit into one integrated organization.


Target Corporation's principal operating strategy is to provide exceptional value to consumers through multiple retail formats ranging from upscale discount and moderately priced to full service department stores. Target's financing strategy is to ensure liquidity and access to capital markets, to manage the amount of floating-rate debt, and to maintain a balanced range of debt maturities.

Target's growth strategy involves achieving average annual earnings per share growth of 15 percent or more over time. Heading into 2001, the company had consistently demonstrated growth. In the previous five years, its earnings per share had increased to around 13 to 15 percent each year. It was expected, by both the company and analysts, that it would achieve 15 to 17 percent growth over the next five years.

One of the ways that Target Corporation keeps its revenues and earnings growing is through its commitment to store expansion, which it achieves primarily through its Target and SuperTarget stores. Another way is by setting itself apart from the competition through its differentiated merchandise and its multiple retail segmentation. Target stores offer more upscale merchandise than similar organizations like Wal-Mart or K-Mart. The result is that Target reaches a broader and more affluent consumer base.

Further, the company's e-commerce efforts have helped fuel its growth. At first, Target was reluctant to try and skeptical about the Internet, but by 2001 it was operating seven Web sites that supported store and catalog brands.


Target's business model combined with its approach has proven to be effective. It has a formula that other retailers wish it would bottle: Target Corporation provides a traditional retail business offering good customer service, and it combines this with excellent financial standing, tremendous growth and profit potential, superb financial ratios, management that is business savvy, and a demonstrated ability to adapt to changing times.


Target plans on increasing its number of new stores. At the same time, sales in its existing stores are rising. Industry observers say that this combination will result in even more growth for Target Corporation. The company opened 74 new stores in 2000 and planned on opening about 70 more in 2001, despite a weakened economy. Actually, Target seemed somehow impervious to the country's economic situation. While other large retailers experienced slower sales growth or even negative sales growth, Target Corporation consistently showed gains. Observers reasoned that since Target customers tended to be more affluent than the typical Wal-Mart or Kmart shopper, a national spending downturn didn't impact the corporation too significantly. True, the corporation's other divisions weren't quite as strong as the Target stores, but they still provided the Corporation with access to even more affluent shoppers. This gives Target Corporation a decided advantage over Wal-Mart.

FAST FACTS: About Target Corporation

Ownership: Target Corporation is a publicly owned company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Ticker Symbol: TGT

Officers: Robert Ulrich, Chmn. and CEO, 57, 2001 salary $2.2 million; Gerald Storch, VChmn., 44, 2001 salary $1.1 million; Douglas Scovanner, CFO and EVP, 45; Gregg Steinhall, Pres. of Target Stores, 46, 2001 salary $1.6 million; James Hale, VP, Gen. Counsel and Sec., 60

Employees: 281,000

Principal Subsidiary Companies: Target Corporation operates stores under three business divisions including Target, a discount chain with more than 1,000 stores; Mervyn's of California, mid-range department stores; and the Department Store Division, which includes Marshall Field's, Dayton's, and Hudson's. The Target chain includes subsidiaries SuperTarget and Target Greatland. Target Corporation also owns catalog retailer Rivertown Trading and apparel supplier Associated Merchandising Corporation, and it operates an electronic retailing organization, targetdirect.

Chief Competitors: Target Corporation operates in the service sector of the retail industry. Its top competitors include Ames, Federated Department Store, J.C. Penney, Kmart, Kohl's Corporation, Sears & Roebuck, and Wal-Mart.


Following the September 11, 2001 attack on New York City and subsequent terrorist threats against symbols of U.S. capitalism, Target Corporation announced that it planned on retiring its very recognizable logo: a big red bull's eye.


Products available in the Target Corporation stores include men's, women's and children's apparel; toys; small appliances; dress, casual and athletic shoes; health and beauty aids; school and office supplies; jewelry and accessories; candy, snacks, and soda; stationery, party home decor and gifts; cameras, phones, and automotive accessories; housewares, commodities, audio and video equipment; hardware, paint, and wallpaper; bicycles, outdoor sports and fitness accessories; music, movies, and books; bath and bedding supplies; rugs; luggage; pet supplies; furniture and lighting; patio and lawn care products; pharmacy services; holiday and seasonal products; and food service.

For the Target stores, the focus is on basic merchandise: the everyday items that consumers use and need most. Products sold include all merchandise categories, from apparel to personal care, and home decor to automotive. The merchandise focus for Marshall Field's is fashion. Mervyn's merchandise focus is on moderately-priced apparel and home fashions.


Target Corporation has established the Target Foundation to maintain its history of five-percent giving in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. The foundation supports the arts and social services.

Target also established the Family of Giving programs at Target Stores, Marshall Field's, Mervyn's and Target Foundation. The programs support nonprofit organizations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.

The company has been recognized for its philanthropic efforts. In 1998, it was named one of "America's 25 most generous companies" by The American Benefactor magazine. In 1999, it received the American Association of Museums Medal for Distinguished Philanthropy, which honors organizations or people who have made outstanding contributions to museums. It has also been named as one of Business Ethics magazine's "100 Best Corporate Citizens."

Target also embraces positive environmental stew-ardship. Through its environmental initiative, it seeks healthy, long-term corporate growth through energy conservation, increased efficiency, recycling, waste reduction and respect for the ecosystems of the communities its serves.


Target Corporation's Associated Merchandising Corp (AMC) subsidiary is a global sourcing organization that works with other global sourcing companies to source garments and other goods for the parent company. AMC, which employs 1,200 people, has 27 full-service offices, 48 quality-control offices and seven commissionaires around the world.


Target Corporation is among America's top 20 employers in the private sector, with over 280,000 employees. It has received national recognition for its comprehensive team member benefits, productive work environment, and commitment to diversity. The company provides training, development and advancement, and family-friendly benefit programs. Diversity efforts are monitored by its board of directors.

CHRONOLOGY: Target Corporation


George Dayton opens the Goodfellows store in Minneapolis, Minnesota


Goodfellows becomes the Dayton Company


Dayton opens the world's first fully enclosed retail mall


The first target store opens in Roseville, Minnesota


The Dayton Company merges with the Hudson Company to form the Dayton-Hudson Company (DHC)


DHC revenues hit the $1 billion mark


DHC acquires Marshall Fields


DHC acquires Rivertown Trading


DHC goes online


DHC changes its name to Target Corporation

Each of the organization's three divisions has its own program of human resources policies and benefits, but they all have several common features that include pretax salary set-asides to help pay for dependent care; child care resource and referral information; alternative work arrangements (telecommuting, job-sharing, work-at-home, flextime, part-time); sick leave and pregnancy leave; 401(k) plan and stock option/stock ownership plans; a pharmacy discount program, including mail order access for maintenance prescriptions; a vacation values program; and automobile/homeowners insurance through payroll deduction.



hoover's online. "target corporation capsule," 10 april 2002. available at,2163,10440,00.html

catron, v., culver, a., demore, m., et al. "financial analysis: target corporation," august 2000. available at "company details: target corporation," 10 april 2002. available at

u.s. business reporter. "target corporation business description," 2000. available at "target corporation." money talks with dr. gene, 2001. available at

yahoo! finance. "target corporation," yahoo! market guide, 10 april 2002. available at

dpi. "target corporation announces emergency logo change." susannah's soap box, 2001. available at

For an annual report:

on the internet at:

For additional industry research:

investigate companies by their standard industrial classification codes, also known as sics. target corporation's sics are:

5311 department stores

5331 variety stores

5651 family clothing stores

5399 misc. general merchandise stores

5961 mail order houses

also investigate companies by their north american industry classification system codes, also known as naics codes. target corporation's naics codes are:

448140 family clothing stores

452110 department stores

452990 all other general merchandise stores

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Target Corporation

Target Corporation


1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
Telephone: (612) 304-6073
Fax: (612) 696-3731
Web site:



In a bold move designed to attract an upscale clientele and garner widespread media attention, the Target Corporation purchased all of the advertising space in the August 22, 2005, issue of the New Yorker magazine. Target had always aimed for a more affluent demographic than its main competitors, Wal-Mart and Kmart, but in grabbing the attention of the New Yorker's readership, Target was seeking to lure an even higher-end consumer to its stores.

The campaign, created by Peterson Milla Hooks, was limited to the single issue of the New Yorker and consisted of 21 different illustrations created by as many artists. The ad space alone cost in excess of $1 million. Each ad used only the colors black, red, and white, and each featured the Target bull's-eye logo incorporated into a New York scene or theme. The ads ranged from loose, hand-drawn sketches to computer-generated geometric cityscapes. One ad featured a low-angle view of a leather-clad female motorcycle rider in the foreground with a giant bull's-eye rising behind the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, while another depicted a crowd of martini-sipping gallery-goers crowded into a room whose paintings were pop art versions of the Target logo. Not a single line of text or image of a specific product appeared in any of the ads. Instead of selling its wares, Target was selling an urbane, artistic impression of itself to a sophisticated audience it had not reached quite so directly in previous campaigns.

The single greatest success of the campaign was its ability to generate media coverage and to create controversy far beyond the readership of the magazine itself. Almost every national newspaper covered the story of Target as the sole advertiser in the magazine—the first time in its history the magazine had been sponsored by one advertiser—and National Public Radio ran two spots about the phenomenon. And while the American Society of Magazine Editors issued a reprimand to the New Yorker for not following its guidelines for single-sponsor issues, this merely led to additional press coverage and sparked a debate in industry circles about the merits of such an undertaking.


Founded in 1962 as a subsidiary of the Dayton Company, Target quickly became the most profitable of the parent company's retail chains. From the beginning the idea behind Target stores was to appeal to customers on the basis of the style of its merchandise and the design of its stores rather than low prices alone. As Bryan Curtis wrote in the online magazine Slate, the founders decided that Target would "exude the mild pretension of a low-end department store rather than the folksiness of a high-end dime store."

By the mid-1980s Target executives were referring to the company's positioning in the marketplace as "upscale discount." Creating this market niche was a way to differentiate Target from its main rivals, Wal-Mart and Kmart, whose sole emphasis was on having the lowest prices in the industry. In keeping with this slightly upscale approach, Target stores were designed with brighter lighting, wider aisles, and more available checkout lines than the competition.

Additional reinforcement of the "discount luxury" concept came in 2000 when Target hired the noted architect and designer Michael Graves to create a line of exclusive household goods for its stores. Graves had previously won an industry award for a tea kettle he designed in 1985 for the Italian firm Alessi, which retailed for $140. The tea kettle he designed for Target, which subsequently became a top seller for the chain, bore a passing resemblance to his previous piece but sold for only $40.

The combination of national branding and upscale designer housewares propelled both Target's sales and its reputation to such heights that in 2000 the company that had founded it (by then Dayton-Hudson Corporation) formally changed its name to Target Corporation. Within a year the company had sold off its other, less-profitable retail divisions.


For Target's "upscale chic" approach to translate into increased revenue, it needed to attract a similarly upscale clientele to its stores. Target had high consumer awareness and strong customer loyalty among lower- and middle-income shoppers, but what the company yearned for was to turn its "more-stylish-than-the-competition" image into a shopping reality for upper-income consumers. To that end, in 1997 Target began to advertise heavily in New York City, mainly through billboards and outdoor signage, even though at the time there were no Target stores in the city or the surrounding metropolitan area. The company was expanding its presence in the northeastern United States, however, and believed that building brand awareness well before the stores were actually open would pay off in the end. In addition, Target hoped to attract a more hip, urban, and wealthy group of customers to its stores, banking on the idea that once trendy New Yorkers were seen wearing Target's clothing lines or using its household goods this would up its cachet among other urbanites nationwide.

It was this that led Target to advertise in the New Yorker. Generally regarded as one of the most prestigious magazines in the United States, this weekly publication was filled with extraordinarily literate journalism mixed with topically relevant New York-themed articles and current events. (It should be noted, however, that despite the magazine's New York area bias, it had more subscribers in California than in New York State.) A casual glance through other issues in August 2005 revealed ads for Jaguar, NetJets, Chanel, Level vodka, BMW, Mercedes, Hartford mutual funds, and Rolex watches, among various high-end products. The average New Yorker reader was hardly a demographic match for the average Target shopper, which was exactly the point. It was among those consumers who could afford to purchase such high-end merchandise that Target hoped to position itself.

The monopolizing of advertising space in the New Yorker made Target's presence in the magazine almost impossible to ignore, but in order to appeal to the tastes and desires of the New Yorker readership the ads themselves did not hawk any particular product or service but instead reinforced Target's branded bull's-eye logo in a variety of subtle and creative ways. Through the Minneapolis-based agency Peterson Milla Hooks, 21 artists were hired to create the full- and partial-page ads for the magazine. No two were alike, and each artist had extraordinary creative license in illustrating the ads. The hope was that the ads, some drawn by the same artists whose work had appeared previously in the editorial portion of the magazine, would attract attention not because of their content but because of their look and style. In short, Target's tastefully creative ads were designed to impress a refined, rather than a bargain-hunting, consumer.


In 2005 Target was the number-two discount retailer in the United States, behind Wal-Mart and with Kmart number three on the list. Target's overall strategy of emphasizing style and not just price had helped to propel it to the number-two spot, but Wal-Mart's size and ruthless determination to slash prices by every available means meant that Target could hardly hope to compete on price alone.

While Wal-Mart's advertising strategy simply reinforced its low-price approach, with ads and television spots literally showing "falling prices," Target chose to promote style and youthful attitude in its marketing efforts, in large part to differentiate itself from its rival. Thus, while Wal-Mart was Target's number one competitor, Target's strategy was not to lure shoppers away from Wal-Mart but rather to lure shoppers away from even higher-end stores than its own.


In 1999 Target decided to launch an ambitious ad campaign to capitalize on its success as a stylish retail chain by solidly branding the company with its simple red and white bull's-eye logo. The hope was to increase consumer awareness of the logo, thereby creating national iconographic recognition for the company. Target aimed to have the bull's-eye join the ranks of McDonald's "golden arches" or Nike's "swoosh" logos, and it succeeded. The campaign ended up yielding a 96 percent awareness of the bull's-eye logo among consumers. The company continued to make the logo a feature of all of its campaigns in all media, reinforcing the connection between the logo and the store.

The success of this campaign, and of others in the interim, allowed Target to feature only its logo, without its name or any other identifying text, in the ads it placed in the New Yorker. The criteria for the illustrations were simple: each ad could consist of only the three colors black, white and red; each was to feature a New York theme or location of some kind; and each needed to feature the Target logo somewhere in the ad. Beyond that the 21 illustrators were allowed to pursue their creative impulses in designing the content of each ad. In what was an unusual move, the agency did not contribute to the look or feel of any of the ads but was responsible only for hiring the illustrators and thereby shaping the overall stylistic mode.


In the early days of both radio and television entire shows were run under the banner of a single advertiser. Ford Theater, General Electric Theater, General Mills Radio Adventure Theater, and Kraft Music Hall were just a few of the programs whose entire content was "brought to you" by one company. As television increased in popularity beginning in the 1960s and as broadcasters became more powerful, the price of advertising on television skyrocketed, and eventually sales of single 30-second spots became the norm. In the fall of 2005, however, despite the enormous costs involved, a number of companies gambled on the relative "newness" of the idea and bought all of the ad spots during a number of shows, including CBS's 60 Minutes (Philips Electronics), NBC's The Tonight Show (Chevrolet), and FX's Nip/Tuck (Sony Pictures). At upwards of $2 million for a complete program, these companies were betting that saturating the airwaves with their products would catch the attention of viewers in a way not seen for two generations.

No single ad looked like any other. The ad by Andre Dubois, for example, featured a drawing of a giant high-heeled red shoe, decorated with white Target bull's-eyes, that was positioned over the water as a bridge or gateway into lower Manhattan. Another, by Milton Glaser, depicted a series of flying red bull's-eyes emerging from the distant night sky and leading up to and encircling the spire of a skyscraper in a cosmic version of the game of ringtoss. The first 19 pages of the magazine featured 10 pages of Target ads, 7 of them a full page, and within these 10 pages the Target logo was featured more than 200 times. In all there were 21 pages of ads in the magazine's 90 pages.

Some of the artists chosen, most notably the illustrator Robert Risko, were regularly featured in the New Yorker as part of the editorial content rather than the advertising. This fact alone generated controversy among industry insiders who felt that Target, with the tacit approval of the New Yorker, was blurring the line between advertising and content. None of the ads was labeled as such, and there was no explanation of the single-sponsorship phenomenon anywhere in the magazine. In fact, the only text devoted to the ads at all came in a sidebar on page 87 that stated, "Our thanks to all the talented illustrators who brought this project to life," followed by a complete list of the illustrators and the pages in the magazine on which their work could be found. Referring to the advertising blitz as a "project" contributed to the outcry from the likes of Lewis Lazare, who wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times that the advertising ploy was "the most jaw-dropping collapse of the so-called sacred wall between editorial and advertising in modern magazine history." Despite his distaste, Lazar could not help but give a nod to the actual efficacy of the ads: "Target … has had its image immeasurably burnished by the practically seamless blending of its ads into The New Yorker editorial product."


Industry experts estimate that Target spent between $1.1 and $1.3 million for the ad space alone, and according to most analysts Target got its money's worth. "On a simple, immediate level, the campaign worked because it [was] sufficiently unusual to have the disruptive, first-mover advantage that is central to many of today's best campaigns," wrote Jonah Bloom in Advertising Age. By attaching itself to a "high-brow" magazine such as the New Yorker and by creating ads that were promoting nothing but an artistic sensibility and a logo, Target created a whirlwind of media attention. Overall, the reaction in the national press was positive. The ads themselves were praised for their tasteful imagery, understated message, and creative diversity. Barbara Lippert wrote in Adweek that Target's sponsorship of the New Yorker was "the most exciting example of branded entertainment I've ever seen." The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle joined the chorus of supporters. At the other end of the spectrum, although much in the minority, was Edward Wasserman, who held that "the bottom line is that The New Yorker's deal with Target transformed the look and feel of the country's most highly regarded magazine into a promotional vehicle for a retail chain." This last comment betrayed the double-sided nature of Target's sponsorship of the New Yorker. Many of those who held the magazine in high regard found the ad buyout by a discount retail chain a sullying move for a literary icon, while those who viewed the retailer positively to begin with were more likely to find the ads both provocative and tasteful. In either case both readers of the magazine and readers of the national press were treated to what every advertiser hoped for—a heavy dose of media attention.

By the time of the publication of the New Yorker issue, Target had 5 stores in New York City, although none in Manhattan, and 53 in the New York metropolitan area, plenty to choose from for those consumers whose curiosity was piqued by the ads. Beyond New York, however, the ads contributed to an increased, albeit enigmatic, awareness of Target among the magazine's mostly affluent, urban readers and sparked a months-long debate in the media over the artistry and ethics of such an approach.


Abelson, Jenn. "And Now, a Few (More) Words from Our (One) Sponsor." Boston Globe, October 24, 2005, p. E1.

Bloom, Jonah. "On Target: Why Presenting Sponsorship's Time Has Come." Advertising Age, August 22, 2005, p. 18.

Curtis, Bryan. "Target: Discount Retailer Goes to the New Yorker." Slate, August 17, 2005. Available from 〈〉

Denitto, Emily. "Target Stores Gun for NYC Market." Crain's New York Business, May 26, 1997, p. 3.

Elliott, Stuart. "And What Would Thurber Say? A Single-Sponsor New Yorker." New York Times, August 12, 2005, p. C5.

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.

Lazare, Lewis. "Target, New Yorker Cross Line." Chicago Sun-Times, August 19, 2005, p. 69.

Lippert, Barbara. "Barbara Lippert's Critique: Hitting the Bull's-eye." Adweek, August 22, 2005.

New Yorker 81, no. 24 (August 22, 2005).

Rowley, Laura. On Target: How the World's Hottest Retailer Hit a Bull's-eye. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2003.

Wasserman, Edward. "Turning an Esteemed Magazine into an Ad Tract." Journalism and Mass Communications, Washington and Lee University, September 9, 2005. Available from 〈〉

                                 Jonathan Kolstad



With more than 860 stores and sales of $20.4 billion, Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Target in 1998 pursued a broad-based advertising and marketing effort designed to further an upscale image and bring in wealthier consumers. Thus it sought to distinguish itself from other companies in the discount-retail niche, and, in fact, its overall advertising strategy made it a standout: in line with the policies of parent company Dayton Hudson of Minneapolis (since renamed Target Corporation), the retailer had not had an agency of record. Rather, it had pursued a number of campaigns, the most prominent of which was its "Take Charge of Education" program, a television effort largely overseen by Martin/Williams of Minneapolis. Total spending for television, radio, print, and other forms of advertising by Target in 1998 was estimated at $50 million.

With "Take Charge of Education," the company promoted the fact that it would donate 1 percent of all purchases that customers made using its charge card, the Target Guest Card, directly to customer-designated schools, kindergarten through high school, as well as to a variety of other educational initiatives, including scholarships and arts programs. One of the principal offerings of the campaign was a 30-second spot in which a hapless boy played by child actor Alan James Morgan made a mess of customers' cars at a school-sponsored car wash. The humorous commercial promoted the Target program as a more efficient way to give money to schools.

The "Take Charge of Education" program successfully launched Target's school-funding initiative, which benefited local communities while also enhancing Target's brand equity by associating the brand with a relevant cause. The company expanded the program to include a Target Visa card that also made contributions on purchases made outside of Target stores. By 2006 the "Take Charge of Education" program had donated about $155 million to more than 108,000 schools.


In 1962 Dayton's, a Minneapolis-based department store chain, opened its first Target store in Roseville, Minnesota. It was a good year for discount chains: Wal-Mart and Kmart, Target's leading competitors, also began business in 1962. From the beginning, however, Target pursued a strategy that set it apart from other discounters, emphasizing an image of high quality alongside its low prices.

Dayton's in 1969 merged with another retailer, Hudson, to create Dayton Hudson. Meanwhile, Target grew rapidly, from four stores at the end of 1962 to a chain of 24 stores eight years later. In the 1970s and 1980s growth accelerated rapidly through acquisitions. With the purchase of a 16-store chain in the western United States, Target in 1971 moved into Colorado, Iowa, and Oklahoma, and purchases in 1980 and 1983 expanded it throughout the Midwest and West Coast, respectively.

In 1990, with 420 stores nationwide, the company opened the first of its Target Greatland stores, which were half again as large as regular Target facilities up to that time. Target stores became even bigger in 1995, with the introduction of the first SuperTargets, 175,000-square-foot units that offered groceries in addition to the items traditionally available in a department store. By the late 1990s, as it expanded rapidly along the East Coast, Target had begun to position itself as a fashionable discount chain, one that appealed to customers whose purchases were driven as much by a sense of style and quality as by price.

The founder of Target's parent company, George Draper Dayton, set the tone for Target's philanthropy. In 1918 he founded the Dayton Foundation, and his family would later commit the predecessor of Target Corporation to donating 5 percent of profits to charity. In fact, his grandsons, Bruce and Kenneth Dayton, who ran the family business in the 1960s and 1970s, were veritable zealots when it came to urging other companies to give back to their communities. Thus, it was no mere marketing ploy for Target in the 1990s to establish the "Take Charge of Education" program, in which the company pledged to donate 1 percent of all consumer purchases on a Target Guest Card to any school (kindergarten through 12th grade) of the customers' choice. In 1998 Target began a marketing effort to promote the program.


From the beginning, Target's image was that of a high-end discounter, with an appeal somewhere between that of dollar stores and bargain basements on the one hand and pricey chains such as Bloomingdale's or Marshall Field's on the other. Certainly a niche existed between these two extremes, and Target sought to fill it by offering customers a pleasant shopping environment. Stores were designed so as to be well lit, with broader aisles than those of a typical discount chain. During the 1990s the company increasingly offered more fashionable lines of housewares and clothing, designed to appeal to a younger, wealthier clientele.

Company surveys had found that the typical Target shopper was about 40 years old and enjoyed a household annual income of just under $50,000. Hence the thrust of its "Grab Your Own Style" marketing in 1998, which, in the words of Lisa Vincenti in HFN: The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, "downplays [the company's] hallmark bull's eye," a logo associated in many minds with low prices. Instead, Sunday newspaper inserts in May 1998 "sent a new message to American households: contemporary, sophisticated, and coordinated home decorating ideas." As Vincenti noted, customers had come to jokingly refer to Target as "Tar-jay" or "Tar-zhay," with a French-style pronunciation to indicate its newer upscale image.

According to Jeffrey Arlen in Discount Store News, Target was at the front end of an industry-wide move "to change the long-time retailing mantra from 'location, location, location' to 'image, image, image.'" As Arlen observed, "No mass merchant has taken this concept to heart with more sincerity than Target Stores. By coupling clever, sophisticated advertising with sharp on-trend merchandising in a mutually beneficial way, it can be argued that the store has successfully created a niche of its own." An industry executive told Arlen that Target "truly understands the importance not just of merchandising … but of combining the merchandise with marketing for their customers … No matter what your income demographic, there is no negative to shopping in the Target stores."


The largest retail chain in America, and the largest retailer of any kind, was Wal-Mart Stores, which in 1998 had an annual budget of $172 million in measured media—more than three times Target's advertising budget. Far behind the massive Arkansas retailer was Kmart, putting Target in third place, well ahead of J.C. Penney and the ailing giant Sears Roebuck. Significantly, in December 1997 Sears hired Robert Thacker, former vice president of marketing for Target, to run its strategic marketing and promotion.

According to Bob Geiger of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Star Tribune, Thacker was responsible for the "seamless" look of Target's marketing, a feat in itself since the company had accounts with more than a dozen advertising agencies and other creative sources. Thacker's move to Sears came at a critical time for that company, which sought in part to imitate Target's winning strategy: as with Target, Geiger wrote, "image is an equally critical issue for Sears, which has attempted in recent years to lure more upper-middle-class shoppers to its stores."


In January 1999 Target ran a full-page ad in USA Today showing the Washington Monument alongside the company's well-known bull's-eye logo. This followed advertising for American Airlines using photos of natural wonders in Utah as well as scenes from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, all of which prompted Mark Johnson of the Seattle Times to write, "Corporate advertisers have cut deals to use national monuments in ads that, at first glance, look like Smokey the Bear has sold his soul."

In fact both ads promoted preservation of monuments, and indeed both Target and American Airlines—along with other companies using similar advertising—had donated millions of dollars to the nonprofit National Park Foundation. Target, for instance, had made a gift of $6.5 million for the restoration of the Washington Monument. "It's kind of a two-pronged win for us," Target spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter told Johnson, "being able to help a good cause and get the visibility." This type of "cause-related marketing" began in 1984 with advertisements for American Express that noted that for every time consumers used their American Express cards, the company would donate a small percentage of their purchases to the restoration of the Statue of Liberty.

Foundation rules, along with federal guidelines, dictated that tobacco manufacturers, liquor companies, and corporations involved in litigation with the Department of the Interior were not allowed to use national monuments in their advertising; furthermore, use of corporate logos should be limited. These rules, Johnson wrote, "may seem a little silly given the commercials that already exist, such as the Statue of Liberty picking up and admiring an Oldsmobile or the United Airlines ad depicting a Thomas Jefferson statue pulling a carry-on suitcase."

Target pursued a strategy of keeping prices lower than those of Sears or Kohl's Department Stores, another strong competitor, but higher than Wal-Mart's or Kmart's. It also increasingly pursued a strategy of providing a whole range of furnishings, just as Sears, Montgomery Ward, and J.C. Penney had once done. Target, with its line of housewares designed by architect Michael Graves, went head to head with Kmart's Martha Stewart collection—and with the offerings of high-end retailers such as Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, and Bed Bath & Beyond. Hence a retail consultant's appraisal of the last-named retailer's reaction to Target's massive "Grab Your Own Style" promotion, as quoted by Vincenti in HFN: it "runs right into their underwear."


In the late 1990s Target's marketing seemed to be everywhere. Thus the company in 1997 moved increasingly into a relatively new field, running a 90-second commercial aired in movie theaters nationwide. Such advertising was much less expensive than airing a traditional television spot, and with the increasing segmentation of the television market, it helped the company reach sometimes elusive consumers. Yet even Rod Eaton, Target's national director of sales promotion, professed surprise when a Target spot actually drew cheers from a movie audience. After all, audiences who had paid as much as $8 for a movie ticket might be inclined to consider commercials an intrusion. The spot, created by HMS partners, featured "a blonde woman in a 'North African' bazaar," according to Diane Richard of Minneapolis-St. Paul CityBusiness, "who exchanges a mysterious note for a package that, lo and behold, contains chocolate chip cookies, a note from Mom, and a Target Sunday circular."

Target also pursued joint advertising with other companies, a strategy already adopted in 1997. Thus it teamed with Revlon and Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, Inc., for an advertising supplement to the December 1998 issue of Elle magazine. The nine-page section, entitled "C'est Target," showed models wearing Revlon cosmetics and clothing from Target. In November 1998 Target joined Columbia TriStar Television Distribution (CTTD) in a $10 million cross-promotional deal tied to the variety talk show Donny & Marie, starring singers Donny and Marie Osmond. In part through Target the Family, its in-store publication, the company heavily promoted the Donny & Marie tie-in.

December 1997 had seen Target's first-ever network television special, Snowden on Ice, which aired on CBS. The show was built around a snowman character, and throughout 1998 Target promoted Snowden spin-offs such as a $15 plush toy. More Snowden marketing followed at Christmas of 1998, along with a 30-second Christmas spot created by Peterson Milla Hooks of Minneapolis, the latter featuring the Rosemary Clooney song "Come On-a My House."

A number of these campaigns were tied in some way to Target's community-service efforts on behalf of schools. The latter was most forcefully promoted in "Take Charge of Education," for which Martin/Williams had created a spot called "Ding Dong" in 1997. "Ding Dong" starred Morgan, who went from door to door selling products that ranged from candy bars to birdseed in order to raise money for his school. Morgan had "charmed viewers with his nervous sales pitches," Aaron Baar wrote in Adweek, and in a 1998 spot the boy was shown to be "up to the same old tricks … working at a school car wash, backing one car into another and soaking everything." According to Baar, "His bumbling antics and commentary … are intended to remind viewers that Target's Guest Card … is an easier way to support education."

"Take Charge of Education" became a mainstay of Target's community-outreach programs. It was expanded to include a school-uniform program in which Target credit-card holders received 10 percent off, and in 1999 the company worked with Golden Books Entertainment on the "Read-In" literacy program, which provided books for children to read in Target stores while their parents shopped. For its part, Target produced nearly 100,000 flyers about the program, which were distributed to elementary-school teachers. In 2001 Target introduced a Target Visa card, aimed at customers who preferred not to carry several charge cards. Target took advantage of the new card to benefit the "Take Charge of Education" program. As with the Target Guest Card, by using the Target Visa for purchases at Target stores, customers donated 1 percent of the total to the school of their choice, but in addition, purchases on the card outside of the store also resulted in a one-half percent donation to the school. Target sweetened the pot even more in 2005 with the "Twice as Nice for Your School" promotion. All program donations were doubled on purchases made from July 24 through September 10, 2005. The concept was also extended to another Target charity. All health-related or pharmacy purchases resulted in a donation to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the United States' largest center for treating children with pediatric cancer and other serious illnesses.


The "Take Charge of Education" program and the marketing effort behind it were successful on a number of levels. From the time the program began, in 1997, through 2006, Target donated in excess of $154 million to schools and other educational programs. All told, 9 million Target customers enrolled in the "Take Charge" program, and more than 108,000 schools received twice-yearly checks from Target to be used in any way they chose, whether it be for books, basic supplies, computers, or grants. Not only was the program worthwhile philanthropy, but it also served Target's business interests. Target officials were, however, generally reluctant to boast about the program, and it was clear that charitable giving had been part of the corporate culture for decades. Frank Clancy of the New York Times reported, "Internal research showed that customers enrolled in this program spent significantly more at Target than other charge card customers." Moreover, Target's commitment to education and other charitable causes helped to elevate its brand, creating value that was likely worth far more than what the company donated. Finally, the "Take Charge of Education" marketing campaign succeeded on a creative level. In October 1998 ad agency OptionOne was recognized in Promo magazine's annual World PRO Awards of Excellence for its "School Fundraising Made Simple" and "School Connection" programs, both tied to "Take Charge of Education."


Arlen, Jeffrey. "Target: Aiming for a Niche of Its Own." Discount Store News, April 19, 1999.

Baar, Aaron. "Target Stores." Adweek (midwest ed.), January 5, 1998, p. 25.

――――――. "Target's New Style." Adweek (midwest ed.), April 13, 1998, p. 8.

"Brand Building." Chain Drug Review, February 15, 1999.

Clancy, Frank. "Concern in Minneapolis as Target Remakes an Icon." New York Times, November 20, 2000, p. F14.

Cuneo, Alice Z.. "Retailers Put Extra Polish on Their Brand Image, Retail: TV Ads More Important than Ever for Target Stores." Advertising Age, October 5, 1998, p. S22.

Friedman, Wayne. "'Donny & Marie' Gets Targeted." Hollywood Reporter, November 19, 1998, p. 40.

Geiger, Bob. "Target Vice President Robert Thacker Moves to Sears." Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, December 29, 1997, p. D2.

Halkias, Maria. "Penney Brings in Da Noise: Retailer's Magazine Aimed at Teen Market." Dallas Morning News, April 6, 1999, p. D1.

Johnson, Mark. "Ads Feature National Parks, Landmarks in Dual Publicity." Seattle Times, February 14, 1999, p. A18.

Richard, Diane. "Target Debuts Ad Campaign on the Big Screen." Minneapolis-St. Paul CityBusiness, May 30, 1997, p. 1.

"Target Takes Charge of Education." Science Activities, Winter 2006, p. 42.

Tellijohn, Andrew. "Target Visa Tested in 3 Markets." Minneapolis-St. Paul CityBusiness, May 25, 2001, p. 1.

Vincenti, Lisa. "Aggressive Target Launches a Marketing 'Glitzkrieg,'" HFN: The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, May 18, 1998, p. 1.

Warner, Fara, and Joseph B. Cahill. "Republic Industries Names an Executive from Sears, John Costello, as President." Wall Street Journal, December 7, 1998, p. B9.

                                 Judson Knight

                                    Ed Dinger

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