Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy 50th to Target, Walmart, and Kmart

Way back in 1962, three discount chains opened their first stores. Today, Walmart, Target, and Kmart are well known for their suburban discount stores filled with aisles and aisles of low-priced merchandise. Over time, this high-volume, low-price approach to retailing would reshape the entire industry and do a lot to reset consumers' expectations and buying patterns.

Target, a discount chain founded by the owners of Dayton's department store, opened its first store in the company's home state of Minnesota in 1962.

Why "Target" with a bulls' eye? "As a marksman's goal is to hit the center bulls-eye, the new store would do much the same in terms of retail goods, services, commitment to the community, price, value and overall experience," management explained. By 2000, the discount side had become so successful that the company was renamed Target.

Kmart was the brainchild of management at S.S. Kresge, a five-and-dime retailer. Eyeing the rise of discounting (and the changes that would ultimately doom five-and-dime stores), the company opened its first Kmart in Michigan in 1962.

Within four years, Kresge was operating 162 discount stores...and by 1977, the majority of the firm's revenues were coming from discounting, which is why the name was officially changed to Kmart in that year.

Sam Walton brought discount retailing to Arkansas in 1962 when he opened his first Wal-Mart store.

Five years later, the company had 24 stores and was growing rapidly.

Today, Walmart (no hyphen in the name any more) is the world's largest retailer and as controversial as it is innovative.

Will discount stores survive the Internet age? Or will they morph into showrooms where shoppers can examine merchandise and then click to buy online?

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