A vision on Target: remembering Doug Dayton

  • Jul 9, 2013
a man in a suit

Sadly, Douglas J. Dayton, the first president of Target Stores, died July 5 at 88 after a year-long battle with cancer.

“On behalf of the entire Target team, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Doug’s family and many friends,” says Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Along with his brothers and cousin, Doug was instrumental in helping to guide the strategic direction of Dayton Hudson Corporation for many years and institutionalize the values that are at the heart of Target Corporation today. We’re thankful for Doug's leadership, and his many contributions to our company and community.”

In the 1950s, Doug helped usher in a new generation of leadership for Target’s parent company, The Dayton Company, when he and his brothers, Wallace, Kenneth, Donald and Bruce, and his cousin, George II, took leadership positions, following in the footsteps of their grandfather, founder George Draper Dayton. Looking for new ways to strengthen relationships with guests at the Dayton’s department store, they saw an opportunity to develop and introduce a new kind of mass-market discount store that catered to value-oriented shoppers seeking a higher-quality experience.

At the time, such a move was considered risky, as it moved away from the company’s dominant position as a department store retailer, but Doug and his brothers’ visionary leadership sparked the first ideas that would transform the organization from a family-run department-store chain into one of the nation's largest discount-store chains.

By 1961, plans to develop the new chain of stores—later named “Target” and given the classic Bullseye logo—were already well in the works. As the chain’s first president, Doug drew upon his company’s vast wealth of department store experience to create a vision for this new kind of store which, in his own words, would, “combine the best of the fashion world with the best of the discount world. A quality store with quality merchandise at discount prices, and a discount supermarket ... 75 departments in all.” The shopping experience would be fun, delightful and welcoming to the entire family, and stores would include wide aisles, easy-to-shop displays, fast checkout and, "loads of well-lighted parking.” In 1962, that vision was realized as the first four Target stores in Roseville, Saint Louis Park, Crystal and Duluth, Minn., opened their doors.

During his tenure as president of Target Stores, Doug oversaw a cross-country expansion as 11 more Target stores opened throughout Minnesota, and in the metro areas of St. Louis, Dallas, Denver and Houston, and our first distribution center opened in Fridley, Minn.

Doug and his brothers also paved the way for our current focus on leadership development within Target. Knowing that superior managerial talent would lead to success in a competitive retail environment, they placed a high priority on programs that foster strong leadership capabilities.

Throughout his life, Doug was also known for his passion for volunteerism. He and his brothers established one of the first corporate-giving programs in Minnesota—our company’s legacy of giving 5 percent of our profits (which today equals more than $4 million every week) to the communities we serve—and became well-known community-giving leaders. “He enjoyed helping others through various organizations that focused on social justice, education, the arts and nature preservation,” his wife Wendy told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, including serving for more than 50 years on what is now the board of the Twin Cities YMCA.

Visit the Interactive History Timeline to learn more about how Doug Dayton and his family helped lay the groundwork that made Target what it is today.

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