Target Business History

Founded in the early 1960s, Target is the 7th largest retailer in the United States as of this writing, selling a large assortment of quality products, including electronics, household supplies, and furniture.

It stacks well against other companies, such as Walmart, The Home Depot, and

Additionally, Target has gained a reputation for providing awesome shopping experiences that create “the Target effect,” which countless buyers, including myself, have experienced. I must confess, there’s something about its stores’ wide isles, meticulous organization, and warm, professional staff that makes you want to buy on.

If you want to know how Target became such a critical part of our society, then this article is for you. By the time you’re done, you’ll have vast knowledge about the Target business history, its growth, and success.

Target Foundation and Growth Story

Early Beginnings

Target Early Beginnings

Target came to life in 1962 as the discount store of the Dayton Corporation, popularly known today as the Target Corporation. The Dayton Family sought a creative and effective way to forge strong business relations with guests. And this division seemed to be the best option to attain that feat.

Douglas J. Dayton served as Target’s first president and guided his staff in establishing the company’s first store in Roseville, Minnesota. Undoubtedly, he was the perfect person to lead the company; he had tremendous experience in department stores, and his vision for the brand was captivating.

The first Target store flourished, and by the end of 1962, the company opened more locations in Duluth, St. Louis Park, and Crystal.

Most people assumed that all these stores were a part of the Dayton Company. But the latter cleared things up by saying that the two stores were not connected and they’d actually compete against each other.

The Dayton Company Goes Public

In 1965, The Dayton Corporation released its first annual report, comprising its net profit and sales figure. Since the Dayton Family owned 90% of the company’s stock, it was still a private brand. And this move was to prepare it to become a public organization in 1967 to transform into a national retailer.

Notably, before the Dayton Corporation went public, it established two Target stores in Denver in 1966.

Target Under William A. Hodder

In 1968, William A. Hodder replaced Douglas J. Dayton as the president of Target. The Dayton Company hired Hodder in 1966 after he’d served at IBM for a decade. With such vast experience, he was doubtlessly competent to fit into Dayton’s shoes.

Under the leadership of Hodder, Target established a distribution center in 1969 in Fridley, Minnesota. As it turned out, this was the first of many to come.

Additionally, in 1969, The Dayton Corporation merged with the J.L. Hudson Company to form the Dayton-Hudson Corporation, making way for further growth. Ideally, this unification saw the company join the list of the top 15 biggest non-food retailers in the US at the time.

Target After the Merger

Target After the Merger

Target made many developments after the merger in 1969. Below, I’ll dive into this company’s timeline between 1970 and 2000.

Employee Welfare

In 1971, Target introduced an annual survey to help its workers express their opinions about the company. At the same time, it allowed them to suggest tips the latter could utilize to provide better services. Of course, this made the workers feel valued and appreciated, motivating them.

By the end of 1971, Target Westland in Denver became the first store to sign a corporate policy that allowed for the hiring of workers living with disabilities. It even ensured their premises were wheelchair-accessible and made other necessary adjustments to implement this plan effectively.

Life for Target workers got even better in 1975 when the company started dishing a 10% employee discount, which it still hands out today. Later, in 1989, this department store chain established an Employee Emergency Assistance Fund to offer financial aid to workers affected by natural disasters or family crises.

It’s also worth mentioning that Target welcomed members of the LGBTQ community to work at their stores. In 1990, it included sexual orientation in its Equal Employment Policy. And in 1992, the company’s workers formed its first Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) organization.

Changes in Target Leadership

The period between 1970 and 2000 saw Target name different leaders.

Stephen L. Pistner became Target’s third president in 1973, succeeding William A. Hodder. Pistner worked closely with Lil Graham, named the company’s first female vice president in 1974.

In 1975, Shirley Young joined the Dayton-Hudson Corporation’s board of directors, becoming the first woman to achieve this feat. Also, like Tomas Gorny, she wasn’t a US native, as she left China as a child.

Ken Macke was named Target’s fourth president in 1976 after working two years as the company’s senior vice president. In 1977, he joined the Board of Directors as the chairman, and Bruce Allbright replaced him as the president of Target. Unfortunately, Allbright didn’t hold this position for long, and it was vacant for three years until Bob Ulrich filled it in in 1984.

Ulrich was Target’s longest-serving president. And when Macke retired in 1994, he replaced him as the Target Corporation’s Board of Directors chairman, a position he held until his retirement in 2008.

Financial Success

Target is not one of the United States’ largest retailers by mistake; it started raking in profits decades ago. In 1975, it was the most profitable division of the Dayton Hudson Corporation. Four years later, it hit $1 billion in yearly sales, a milestone even its parent company hadn’t achieved by then.

From my perspective, various things contributed to Target’s financial success between 1970 and 2000. For starters, it had a world-class leadership team, and it had shown great concern for its employees and customers.

Besides, Target adopted new technologies as soon as they were invented to promote its products and enhance efficiency in the workplace. For instance, it ran a weekly ad in the 1970s and leveraged a network intranet in the early 1980s to facilitate communication.

The New Era


Target’s modern era began in 2000, when its parent company, the Dayton-Hudson corporation, was renamed Target Corporation. Some of its milestones since then include:

Pop-Up Stores

In 2001, Target introduced its first pop-up store in NYC. Generally, these shops were strategically situated in places without a Target store to lure people in and create a much-needed buzz before disappearing. Their main objective was to market the company, automatically enlarging its customer base.

As expected, the ‘pop-up’ store marketing technique worked like magic. In 2003, one in Rockefeller Center fetched $650,000 in sales within only six weeks.

More Expansion

Over the years, Target has made all efforts to expand its brand. For instance, it established its first stores in Alaska in 2008 and customized its design to suit the local market. The following year, the company expanded to Hawaii and even held a Hawaiian ceremony to bless the new venture before its construction began.

In 2009, Target started the PFresh concept, which offered fresh food, including farm produce, baked goods, and different types of meat.

Then, in 2010, Target launched a store in Manhattan and three more in Canada in 2013.

By the end of 2015, Target had 133 retail stores in Canada, but it shut down all of them, citing it wanted to concentrate on US business.

Distribution Centers

Distribution Centers

Target had established 41 distribution centers across the US by the end of May 2016. These warehouses are tasked with shipping various products to Target stores, excluding vendor-supplied goods.

I should also mention that unlike one of its main competitors, Walmart, Target doesn’t store groceries at its distribution centers. Instead, the companies it has partnered with provide them.

Target Social Responsibility and Philanthropy

Like global companies such as GE, Target has done a plethora of activities to benefit society. It all started in the 1970s when the Dayton Hudson Corporation gave pine trees to its store guests to celebrate the first Earth Day. The company also backed its workers who cleaned parks in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado.

In 1990, Target launched a non-profit group known as the Kids For Saving Earth (KFSE) to allow passionate children to be involved in eco-friendly endevors such as protecting wildlife, minimizing pollution, and conserving energy.

Additionally, Target established the Charge of Education innovative program in 1997 to provide the tools teachers need to inspire and transform their kids’ lives. By the initiative’s end in 2016, the company had donated over $320M to many K-12 schools across the nation.

Besides, Target partnered with The Heart of America Foundation to start The Target School Library Makeover Program in 2008. This program has helped over 100K students by donating 1.5M+ books and renovating many libraries in the US.

Target Videos

Here’s a video explaining how Target came to be. One of the aspects I liked about it is that it begins with the store’s parent company, Target Corporation, which was launched in 1902. At the time, it was known as Goodfellow’s Dry Goods Company, but its name has changed over the years, thanks to mergers and the need to rebrand.

If you’ve been scouring the internet for info about George Dayton, the man whose vision saw the establishment of Target, you might find this clip helpful. By the end of it, you’ll know when Target Corporation’s founder was born, his birthplace, aspirations, childhood, and path to success.

Itching to view the interior of the first Target store launched in May 1962 in Roseville, Minnesota? Check out this 2-minute virtual tour to catch a glimpse of some of its features back then. My research shows that this location is still open, but unfortunately, it has been remodeled. So, it might look a bit different if you visit it today.

If you ask me, the company shouldn’t have renovated the store, and lots of people share the same opinion based on the comment section as they consider it a ‘historical landmark.’ Nevertheless, as times have changed, I understand the need to give it a more modern look.

Where Is Target Today?

Presently, Target runs 1,900+ stores located in all the states in the US. It also owns many brands it launched over the years, including Good & Gather, Marker Pantry, Sutton & Dodge, Threshold, Xhilaration, up & up, and Embark.

As of 2018, Target had four subsidiaries that it still owns. These are as follows:

  • Target General Merchandise, Inc
  • Target Brands, Inc
  • Target Enterprise, Inc
  • Target Capital Corporation

Target previously owned two more subsidiaries – Target Portrait Studio (1996-2017) and Target Canada (2013-2015).

Regarding revenue, Target has recorded increases within the past few years. For instance, its annual gross sales for 2020 and 2021 were $78.112B, and $93.561B, respectively.

Notably, Target Corporation’s current CEO and chairman is Brian C. Cornell.

Origin of the Target Logo and Name


Image From Logo Fandom

If you have ever shopped at Target, you might have noticed its bullseye logo, which it has used for decades. Where did its idea come from? Let me loop you in!

So, a few months before Target opened its doors to the public, Stewart K. Widdess, the former Dayton’s Director of Publicity, was given the responsibility of defining the new store. This meant coming up with a name and logo to help identify the new brand and distinguish it from all others.

Widdess and his team spent a lot of time thinking of a new name and considered over 200 options. Eventually, they settled for “Target” and a classic bullseye logo, which best illustrated the objectives they’d set for the company.

As Widdess explained, just like the marksman’s objective was to hit the bull’s eye, they had a similar target regarding availing goods and services. They would also remain dedicated to the community by prioritizing value, price, and better shopping experiences.

Target used its bullseye logo from 1962 to 1968. In the latter, they streamlined it and eliminated one of its red concentric circles. Today, the Target logo’s bullseye is a bit more refined, but it still appears as it did decades ago.

Target’s Charitable Ventures

Unquestionably, Target is known as one of the most charitable organizations, and it’s for a good reason. I discovered that it donates up to $3M weekly to the communities its stores are situated.

The Target House complex in Tennessee is also a great example of how philanthropic this company can be. The building houses the loved ones of patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Furthermore, Target gave out money and other essentials to the victims of 9/11 to help them recover from the losses caused by the attacks, and it often donates clothing and cash to Goodwill Industries and the American Red Cross.

Target Controversies

Like global companies such as Alibaba, and Costco, Target has stirred up various controversies in the past. Check out some of them and how they have impacted the brand.

Target Employees Pranked

In 2021, workers at a Target distribution center in Michigan alleged they’d fallen victim to a cruel prank by their manager. The latter sent them fortune cookies with weird comments after telling them they would not receive the $2 raise increase as promised earlier.

According to the workers, those messages were mocking them, as some said, “The fortune you see is in another cookie,” and “I see money in your future; it’s not yours though,”

If you ask me, there’s nothing funny about being lied to about a pay raise and receiving messages from your boss to ‘rub it in.’ So, the workers’ anger was warranted.

Notably, this incident birthed doubts about whether Target was really concerned about its employees. With regards to it, the company said the cookies’ messages were sent mistakenly and had no intention of hurting or disappointing its members.

Target and Bea Dixon

Target and Bea Dixon

The world knows Bea Dixon as the founder of The Honey Pot, a plant-based feminine line based in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2020, Target chose her company to commemorate Black History Month, creating an ad spot to enable her to share her business journey.

Bea took advantage of the 30-second commercial to share her challenges when starting her company. She also thanked Target for working with her and helping her get her products stocked at nationwide retailers.

Bea added that her story was important because she wanted other black women to implement their ideas and have a shot at success. Unfortunately, the fact that she only addressed “the next black girl” didn’t sit well with most white women, many of whom accused her and Target of being racist.

Consequently, they left many negative reviews on The Honey Pot’s profile on Trust Pilot, encouraging users to boycott the company alongside Target.

Target responded by making it clear that it was committed to empowering all women and incredibly proud of working with Bea, showing its capability to make a stand and adhere to its values.

AEDs In Target Stores

In 2014, 49-year-old Mary Ann Verdugo died from a heart attack at the Pico Rivera Target Store. Shortly after, her relatives sued the company for lacking an automated external defibrillator (AED) that could have saved her life. Even so, the California Supreme Court ruled the company wasn’t obligated to store the device for first aid.

Interested in hearing my two cents? Although Target is not required to provide AEDs, availing them for medical emergencies might have shown its customers that it cared for their wellbeing, which could have been good for PR.

Frequently Asked Questions – Target Business History

Question: Was Target established in 1902?

Answer: No. I know this can be somewhat unclear for some people, but Target (store) was founded in 1962. The company that founded it, Target Corporation, was established in 1902, which I believe confuses individuals.

Question: Who is Target’s main competitor?

Answer: As of this writing, Target has several major competitors, including Costco, Walmart, Dollar Tree, and Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos

Question: Is Target shutting down?

Answer: No. You have nothing to worry about if you’re a loyal Target customer. It ranks among the top 50 largest companies by revenue in the United States. I have a feeling it’ll be around longer to achieve success.

Question: Can I find a Target store in Australia?

Answer: Yes. Target has established 200+ stores across Australia.

Question: Why do some people prefer Walmart to Target?

Answer: A few years back, Business Insider conducted a study that revealed that Target was selling groceries at a 15% higher price than Walmart, prompting people to believe that all its products were unreasonably expensive.

Research Citations

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