Douglas J. Dayton, Retail Executive, Dead at 88

The first president of Target stores died on Friday following an extended battle with cancer.

Douglas J. Dayton, who served as the first president of Target stores, died on Friday following an extended battle with cancer. He was 88.

This story first appeared in the July 8, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Dayton led a team within his family-owned department store, Dayton Co., that launched the Target discount concept in 1962, with its first store in Roseville, Minn. The company marketed the store as offering department store features like fashion, quality and service with the low prices of a discounter. Three more Target stores opened in Minnesota by yearend.

In 1966, Target opened its first store outside of Minnesota in the metro Denver area. The following year, Dayton Co. went public and began to expand nationally. Today, Target operates 1,832 stores.

Dayton himself exited the Target business in 1968 and became an executive at its parent company, the Dayton-Hudson Corp., which was created by the 1969 merger of Dayton Corp. and J.L. Hudson Co. of Detroit.

Dayton left the family business altogether in 1974 to form a venture capital firm.

Born on Dec. 2, 1924, in Minneapolis, Dayton was the youngest of five sons of George Nelson Dayton, son of Dayton Co. founder George Draper Dayton. He joined the family business after serving in the Army during World War II, where he received a Purple Heart.

Dayton, who lived in Wayzata, Minn., was an active philanthropist and served on the boards of the Twin Cities YMCA, the Urban League, the Minneapolis Urban Coalition and the Nature Conservancy, according to press reports.

“Doug was instrumental in helping to guide the strategic direction of Dayton Hudson Corp. for many years and institutionalize the values that are at the heart of Target Corp. today,” said Gregg Steinhafel, president and chief executive officer of Target Corp.