As the parent corporation wrote in 1965: “Target Stores, Inc., was conceived with the knowledge that, while there always will be room for full-service, quality department stores at the upper end of the merchandising scale, there also will be people who wish to take advantage of low margins and convenience shopping through the economies of mass merchandising.”
Here, see how it all began — and how times changed Target from a budget venture into one of the strongest brands in the world.
Vintage Target stores: The original logo
Preview of the first Target store design (February 19, 1962)
Target Stores, Inc., a subsidiary of Dayton’s, Minneapolis, Saturday released this architect’s drawing of a Target discount store planned on a 32-acre site adjacent to Knollwood Shopping Center, St. Louis Park.
The store is scheduled to open Aug. 1. The building, enclosing 125,000 square feet, will be surrounded by a parking lot with space for 1,700 cars. Target’s first opening is slated May 1 in Roseville.
Shoppers in Target’s Roseville store — first in the chain (September 1962)
What’s that you said about Target, pardner? (1962)
Did you say Target is just another discount store? Son, you’re treadin’ on our honor when you say that. We’re mavericks, you hear? We insist on quality first in every department.
We give some mighty fancy discounts — every item, every day, every department. But we never horse around cuttin’ quality. You got that? We’re different. Understand?
Now let’s both simmer down and mosey over to Target’s Gingham Garden for a chocklit soda. I’ll buy. Shucks, it’s not much, not at Target prices.
• Quality merchandise at low, discount prices
• Purchases returnable for cash — anytime!
• Open daily 10 to 10 — Saturdays 9-6
• Quick, easy, self-service shopping
• Free parking for more than 1,000 cars
• Air-conditioned — everything on one floor
• More than 75 departments — value packed!
• Discount Supermarket with over 6,000 items
Vintage Target stores from 1966
1967: Target has 9 stores
From the company’s annual report: “Target’s merchandising formula is quality, convenience and low margin — a combination which satisfies the everyday requirements of its customers. This has resulted in very high volume per store.
“Today, after six years, Target is a dynamic and profitable discount operation… We are attracting customers with strong purchasing power. Our study shows the income level of Target customers is the second highest of all major stores, traditional or discount, in the market surveyed.”
Vintage Target store clerks in Duluth, Minnesota (1967)
Vintage Target stores in 1968 & 1969
Target growing in 1970
From Dayton-Hudson: “Target more than doubled its markets in less than two years, extending its geographic span from Northern Minnesota to Southern Texas. It entered its fifth, sixth and seventh markets in 1969 with discount stores in Dallas, Houston and Colorado Springs. It entered its eighth and ninth — Tulsa and Milwaukee — in 1970.”
Markets served in 1970: Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Milwaukee, Duluth, Colorado Springs.
1974: Target’s aim is to be the No. 1 quality discounter in each of its markets
“In 1974, Target’s customers found a fast-moving ready-to-wear business, a broad assortment of fashion apparel here and dominant selection of name-brand hardgoods.”
Target in 1977: ‘Business is no mystical thing’
Excerpted from an article published in The Dispatch (Moline, IL) September 18, 1977
One-time salesman turns Target stores around
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn — When Target stores were teetering on the edge of doom several years ago, Stephen Pistner, a one-time door-to-door adding machine salesman from St. Paul, was tapped to revive the dying discounter.
As the chain’s newly named president, Pistner (pronounced Pys-ner), took an unconventional approach to a conventional business and, within 18 months, Target began showing signs of life.
Gross profits for the low-margin group of the Dayton Hudson Corp., of which Target comprises more than 80 percent, dropped to $13 million in 1973 from $18 million in 1971.
Then in came Pistner, and by 1974, earnings had returned to near 1971 levels. Between 1974 and 1976 they jumped 283 percent — one of the most dramatic in retail, and Pistner has catapulted into prominence within the industry.
Says one Wall Street analyst, “They key ingredient to retailing is management, and Pistner is the best there is. He’s one of the true geniuses of the business.”
Pistner, 45, executive vice president of retail for Dayton Hudson. the nation’s eighth-largest non-food retailer, broke into the Dayton organization in 1970 by selling Team Electronics to the Minneapolis-based corporation.
He had transformed Team from a wholesale electronic distributing company into a healthy retail operation, and its sale was a carefully planned move that resembles the strategic planning for which Pistner has become famous.
HE IS AN immodest, aggressive motivator; a colorful figure. He can lose his cool one minute and laugh the next, and he excitedly makes a point by raising his voice and slapping his hand on a table.
“He’s just an extremely effective guy,” says one associate. “While he’s hard to work with and live with, he has a positive effect on an organization overall. He’s extremely intelligent and articulate, and he’s extremely persuasive. He’s the kind of guy that could sell refrigerators to Eskimos. He’s also very dramatic. He could almost be an actor with some of the poses he strikes.
Says Pistner, “In effect, I’m not afraid. I have a great deal of faith in what I do.”
In 1973, Pistner was named president of the overexpanded, undermanaged, 46-store Target chain. “It had lost thrust and direction,” Pistner says. “and it had grown too fast. There were too few qualified executives to carry its growth.
TARGET had benefited from strong, continuous growth during its first 10 years. But in 1971 and 1972, it grew from 23 stores to 45.
“I was given the chance to take over a dying business,” Pistner says. “it looked to me like the greatest opportunity around. I saw so many incompetent people in discounting. The industry wasn’t dying. It was just misdirected.”
What Pistner did, according to one observer, was revamp Target’s entire merchandising system. “He made Target much more responsive to consumers. He set in expense controls and operating controls. Now they’re getting return on their investments. He ran the store the way a good store should be run.”
IN A TONE of disbelief, Pistner describes how he gathered Target’s top 10 executives, asking them over and over in a series of meetings what the problem was.
“I was told the company had too much expenses and that consumers wouldn’t buy more, and we couldn’t expect the company to do better until trends reverse themselves. They said we had to wait to see the trends reverse themselves rather than asking how can the business reverse itself!
“I ended up removing seven of the 10 executives.” This is where his psychology background comes into play. “Too few executives,” Pistner says, “ask the right people for answers to problems. Too few executives don’t realize that problems can be solved by talking with people who work in it.
“BUSINESS is not complicated, but many executives try to make it a mystical thing, but it’s not.”
Pistner and his management team began surveying customers and cashiers. “Consumers,” Pistner says, “will tell you what’s right and what’s wrong. and they’ll tell you in five minutes flat what they don’t like.
“They said that when they went into stores there was always confusion at the front end. We found out the entrances were too narrow, so we reopened the doors and we reposition the place where the checkout lanes were. We changed the whole setup in the front.”
When it came to surveying the cashiers, Pistner surprised his executives by inviting a number of cashiers to lunch. “They told us the customers complained bitterly. We asked questions. They answered. In 45 minutes they told us eight things that were wrong.”
One of the most common complaints, the executives learned, was that merchandise was not ticketed.
THUS BEGAN Target’s turnaround. Two standard rules that Pistner says have been instrumental in helping Target succeed are: 1) To be in stock on advertised merchandise. 2) To be in stock on the basics.
Now with 54 stores from Texas to Minnesota, Target boasts sales of more than $600 million. It is the strongest segment of Dayton-Hudson, and its performance has been so outstanding that the parent company has earmarked 50 percent of its capital investments towards building some 50 new Targets over the next five years.
In 1986, Target had been the corporation’s largest division for six years
“Through clear signs, well-organized displays and efficient checkout procedures, Target makes it easy for customers to find, select and purchase its value-priced merchandise.”
Scenes from old Target stores from 1987 & 1988
See old Target store scenes from 1989
Vintage Target store aisles from 1990-1992
Health & beauty and cosmetics
Teal Appeal housewares/Bath & bedroom
Cleaning supplies & laundry detergents
Old Target checkout lanes in 1991
Retro household organizers & storage containers from 1992
Vintage ’90s clothes & accessories for teens
Totally Hair Barbie
Vintage Barbie Dolls from 1992 — each sold with a trial size of Dep hair gel.
Vintage Target stores & marketing from 1993-1999
An 1990s Target sales associate with red sweatshirt and nametag
Finally, in 1999, Dayton-Hudson was renamed Target Corporation
“Acknowledging the strength of the Target brand and the future growth opportunities of our largest retail division, we recently changed our name to Target Corporation.
“Our new name recognizes that the Target division, today, comprises more than 75 percent of the company’s sales and profits, and that this contribution will continue to increase over time as we further expand our store base.”
Target’s 1999 Peter Max designs
How many Target stores there were in 1999, plus sales numbers