With roughly 1800 stores across the country, Target has leveraged its reputation as a slightly more upscale Walmart to become the second-largest retailer in North America. The company promises “clean, spacious” shopping areas and relies on a familiar red coloring scheme to make it stand out from a surplus of discount stores. Read up on Target's ability to predict pregnancies, the lunacy of refrigerating Doritos, and the logic behind those concrete red balls.
1. Target started with a church fire.
At the turn of the century, real estate developer George Dayton pulled opportunity out of still-simmering embers when he bought a stretch of property in Minneapolis, Minnesota that had previously been home to the Westminster Presbyterian Church. When the church burned down in 1895, Dayton was able to use the grounds to build a six-story commercial building. Feeling it needed a primary store, Dayton convinced Goodfellows Dry Goods to relocate there. That burgeoning retail business led the family to start the Target discount franchise in 1961.
2. "Tarjay" was a thing all the way back in the 1960s.
Pronouncing Target as though it were a French boutique is older than you think. Douglas Dayton, who inherited the Dayton business along with his brothers, recalled that people were making that joke from the time the first Minneapolis location opened in 1962.
3. Shoppers were evacuated from one Target store due to an X-rated emergency.
A San Luis Obispo store had to clear itself of customers and staff in July 2015 after a hooligan managed to hijack their public announcement system and pipe pornographic noises over the speakers. The SLO Tribune reported that management was able to turn off the soundtrack following the evacuation. The pranksters struck a second time at a San Jose location that October during Mommy and Me Day.
4. Those big red balls outside Target stores are for your safety.
Plopped unceremoniously in front of many Target locations are giant concrete balls called bollards. While they do complement the store’s red aesthetic, they also serve a functional purpose: to keep cars from driving into the door.
Inspired by the bollards, one married couple took to Instagram and Facebook to post photos of themselves interacting with them for 365 days straight. (Don't have too much fun with them, though, When the company put a decorative beach-ball colored fabric over the balls in 2007, people complained that children might kick them and break their feet.)
5. Target knows if you're pregnant (Even if your family doesn't).
A company employee tipped off The New York Times Magazine in 2012 that data analytics obtained from shopping could be sorted to assess whether a shopper is pregnant. Using a record of transactions, things endemic to second-trimester shopping (unscented lotions, supplements like calcium and zinc) were identified. The company could even make a reasonable estimate of when a customer was due and send them coupons tailored for their needs. Creepy? Yes, especially when the father of a teenager called a Minneapolis store to complain his daughter was getting baby-related coupons. Turns out he didn’t know she was pregnant.
6. Target will let customers breastfeed anywhere in the store.
If you’re nipple-averse, you might want to reconsider a Target trip. In 2015, the company announced a policy that allows for mothers to fuel their babies anywhere they please on the premises. Housewares, electronics, sporting goods, stationery—no department is exempt. The policy was publicized after one mother was erroneously told to cover up in Texas and stores experienced organized “nurse-ins” in protest.
7. Target likes to refrigerate Doritos.
In 2014, people took to the Internet to voice their confusion over Target stores that were keeping bags of Doritos in their coolers. Was there some new, as-yet-undiscovered way to appreciate the tasty tortilla chip? Had Doritos been perishable all this time? The truth was somewhat less sensational, albeit substantially more disgusting. Turns out they were trying to promote a recipe for “walking tacos” that called for refrigerated items like shredded cheese, ground beef and sour cream to get mixed inside a bag of Doritos.
8. Target once opened 11 stores in one city in one day.
In a bold move not even Starbucks has attempted, Target opened 11 stores in Chicago on the same day in March of 1993. The aggressive launch may have been intended to declare retail war on competitors Walmart and Kmart: Chicago was the first time all three were going up against one another in a major market.
9. Target pharmacies are owned by CVS.
Target was once responsible for doling out their own prescriptions, but no more. In June 2015, the company announced that CVS Pharmacy would be buying their medication dispensaries for close to $2 billion and the locations would be re-branded as CVS fixtures. Why sell? The company needed some cash after their Canadian expansion plans fell flat.
10. Target helped repair the Washington Monument.
In 1997, the company put up $1 million and pledged additional assistance to the National Park Service to repair a dilapidated Washington Monument. While companies often make expensive gestures, Target went one better and helped enlist Michael Graves to help brainstorm ideas to reinforce the structure during the restoration work. Graves later become the company’s first “name” designer to debut a line of branded products.
11. "Alex from Target" got death threats.
Back in November 2014, a photo of Alex Lee—a handsome, 16-year-old Frisco, Texas Target employee—went viral, and dreamy Alex soon became an Internet meme of considerable proportions. He went from 100 Twitter followers to 100,000 almost overnight and modeling offers soon followed. But not everyone was taken with his celebrity. Alex told The New York Times he got some threats of violence and saw his family’s social security numbers posted online. Alex eventually left Target to pursue other ventures, like touring with other viral personalities.
12. Target's offering of "manatee gray" as a plus-sized color was a mistake.
A Target.com shopper was taken aback when she spotted a size selection option for a Mossimo kimono dress in 2013. All of the sizes were labeled “dark heather gray” except for the plus-sized option that was dubbed “manatee gray.” Target explained that it was an actual color found across a variety of lines and that relegating it to just one size in the dress was in error.
13. Some Target stores are downsizing.
The retailer's newest strategy is not to open airplane hanger-sized stores but to take advantage of areas where real estate is at a premium to open smaller-scale locations. At 17,000 square feet, they're just 15 percent of the size of a typical Target. The sites cater to a "grab and go" customer base near universities that may rely on public transportation and only needs to stock up on a handful of items. The company has opened about 100 of these stores around the country and plans to add 30 more per year.
14. Target reinvented the shopping cart.
While some stores are content to let metal shopping carts age less than gracefully, Target decided that their carts were in need of a makeover. In 2006, the company enlisted Design Continuum to reverse-engineer a cart so it was easier and more comfortable to maneuver. The store's plastic carts, which are 15 to 20 pounds lighter than a conventional steel cart, are less likely to damage shelves—or the calves of shoppers in front of you.
15. The Target dog flies first class.
Introduced in 1999, lovable store mascot Bullseye has been a constant in Target’s ad campaigns. Naturally, the bull terrier travels in accommodations worthy of her position. She’s been spotted in first class, and a rider specifies how long she’s able to work during personal appearances.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, the bullseye dye on her face is vegetable-based.