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The Man Who Invented Target

From the time that F.W. Woolworth invented the five-and-dime store in the late 19th century, Americans have always been crazy about low prices. But it was Douglas J. Dayton and his family's Target chain of stores who sold Americans on the idea that buying inexpensive wares at a discount store could be fashionable as well as frugal.

When Target opened its first store in Roseville, Minn., in 1962, a newspaper ad announced: "Here's news for people whose taste runs to the better things in life - A new kind of discount store for people who demand and understand quality ... [offering] better lines of everything from groceries to high fashion. And all at EVERYDAY DISCOUNT PRICES."


In a 1961 newspaper interview, Dayton explained that the new store would "combine the best of the fashion world with the best of the discount world." That attitude eventually evolved into stores with brightly hued interiors and shelves stocked with goods by name designers such as clothier  Mossimo Giannulli and Jason Wu.

Here are some facts about Dayton, who died on July 6 at age 88 in St. Paul, and one of the biggest success stories in American business:

  • Dayton attended Amherst College in Massachusetts - where he majored in history, not business. In an odd twist for a future retailing mogul, the only bad grade he received was a D in economics.
  • Dayton started out in his family's original department store, the Dayton Company in Minneapolis, as a lowly shoe salesman. "I didn't know how to put a shoe on a lady's foot to start with," he told business historian Laura Rowley years later. But he quickly distinguished himself by selling a pair of sling pump, patent-leather shoes, which had been such a slow seller that the store gave salesmen a $4 commission if they managed to unload a pair.
  • When the Dayton family decided to branch out into discount retail, they named the new store Target in order to differentiate it from their more upscale, eponymous flagship department store chain.
  • Target opened a store in the Denver area, the first location outside of Minnesota, in 1966.
  • Target's original logo was a realistic bulls-eye, which it dropped in 1968 in favor of a more stylized, high-fashion logo.
  • In 1988, Target became the first mass merchandiser to put bar codes on all its products, so that they could be scanned by checkout clerks. The innovation greatly sped up checkout lines.
  • The chain's mascot bull terrier, Bullseye, with a red bull's-eye logo painted around his left eye, first made his appearance in a 1999 TV commercial. The actual dog's real name was Arielle.
  • In 2005, Target staged a bizarre Vertical Fashion Show in New York City, in which models scaled the walls of a nine-story tower in Rockefeller Center.


Here's a video about the Dayton family, in which Douglas Dayton is interviewed.


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