Target Corporation

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Target Corporation
American Business History
SS 304-03

Target Corporation is a growth company focused exclusively on general merchandise retailing. Their 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. (Target Corporation Company, n.d.). Its founder George D Dayton, a banker and real estate investor became a partner in Goodfellows Dry Goods Company, the fourth largest department store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The following year desiring greater involvement, Dayton takes sole ownership of the store and becomes the first President of the newly named Dayton Dry Goods Company. (Through the Years, n.d.).

In 1881, native New Yorker George D. Dayton decides to explore the growing Midwest markets. After several years in banking and real estate, Dayton decides Minneapolis offers the strongest opportunities for growth. He purchased land in Nicolett Avenue and formed the Dayton Dry Goods Company, today known as Target Corporation. (Through the Years, n.d.). Eventually the store would expand to fill the six-story building. 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. (Target Corporation Company, n.d.). 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. (Target Corporation Company, n.d.). 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. (Target Corporation Company, n.d.). 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. (Target Corporation Company, n.d.). Target Corporation is the fourth largest retailer in the United States, operating 1,556 stores in 47 states. Formerly Dayton Hudson...
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