Department store scion and Target founder Douglas Dayton dies at 88


Douglas Dayton, an heir to a department store empire who led retail giant Target as its first president more than 50 years ago, has died, the Star Tribune reports, after a battle with cancer. Dayton, also a Purple Heart recipient in World War II, was 88.

In 1962, Dayton was an executive of Dayton Hudson Corp., which had various department store holdings including its namesake stores, after being founded in downtown Minneapolis by George Draper Dayton in 1902.

Many credit Douglas Dayton with coming up with the idea for an "upscale discount retailer," though this Wikipedia account also credits Dayton employee John F. Giesse as "the founder of Target from concept to large discount chain."

It became the nation's second-largest retailer.

“It was actually the internal marketing team, or creative team within Dayton’s that defined Target as sort of exactly what guests needed at that point in their lives,” one current Target exec told WCCO-TV in 2012.

At any rate, Dayton took over as president and oversaw its expansion in its infancy in the 1960s

The Strib's Neal St. Anthony notes that Douglas Dayton was the youngest of five Dayton brothers who took over their father’s department store in the 1940s and built it into publicly held Dayton Hudson Corp, one of the nation’s largest regional department store chains.

As president, St. Anthony writes, Dayton pledged $4 million to open the first four Target stores, each in a different Twin Cities suburb.

He then told his disbelieving brothers that he thought Target could double early estimates of $50 million in annual revenue, St. Anthony writes.

“I remember telling my brother Bruce that we were going to do $100 million and he sent me a nice note when we did it in 1968,” Dayton said in a May interview with the Star Tribune. “Target was the best job I had.”

The Daytons were also involved in the opening of the country's first enclosed shopping mall, Southdale, in 1956.

Dayton served during World War II as a sergeant in the Fifth Infantry Division under Gen. George Patton, according to the Star Tribune's obit, and was awarded the Purple Heart. He served in France, Belgium and Germany, the paper reports.

He was the uncle of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.

This video has a nice history of the Dayton brothers, as told by Douglas Dayton:

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