Dayton’s death was revealed by his eldest son, Mark C. Dayton, the governor of Minnesota.
Dayton was born into a retail dynasty. George Draper Dayton, his grandfather, in 1902 founded the Dayton Dry Goods Company, which eventually grew into a national department store chain.
Dayton was one of five brothers who inherited the retailer in the Forties, and was the last surviving of the five. He stepped into the family business in 1950, following the death of his father, Nelson Dayton, the son of the founder, who was running the company at the time. Bruce’s brother Donald became president, while Bruce, who was good with numbers, handled finances. In 1962, the brothers founded a discount division, Target, which now has about 1,800 stores nationwide.
When Donald was named chairman of Dayton’s in 1967, Bruce took on the role of president. Bruce became ceo in 1969, the same year that Dayton’s joined forces with retailer J.L. Hudson to become Dayton-Hudson. The group also by then owned B. Dalton Bookseller, Dayton Jewelers and Dayton Development Co.
Bruce led the company during the Seventies, a time when Dayton-Hudson was reshaping the retail landscape of the Twin Cities. Among his achievements was building the country’s first enclosed shopping center, Southdale Mall in Edina, Minn. In 1978, the family gave up day-to-day management of the company, although Bruce and his brother Kenneth remained on the board. The stepped down in 1983, ending 80 years of direct family involvement with the company.
In 1990, Dayton-Hudson acquired Marshall Field. The Minneapolis-based company was in turn acquired by the May Co. prior to its own acquisition by Federated Department Stores, later Macy’s Inc. The Marshall Field units were subsequently re-branded as Macy’s.
“The entire Target team was saddened to hear of Bruce Dayton’s passing today,” said Brian Cornell, ceo of Target. “Bruce was a great man and a visionary retail and business leader. Most importantly, he proved that you can both do good business and do good while doing business. The legacy of giving back that he championed so many years ago continues at Target today.”
Dayton believed that a company’s fortunes are linked to the health of the communities they operate in, and began returning 5 percent of profits back to the community, which Target continues. “Decades ago, when Bruce was opening Target’s first stores, he was one of the lone voices espousing this view,” said Cornell. “We’re thankful for everything Bruce did for the company and communities across the country. His family is in all of our thoughts.”
An enthusiastic art collector with an interest in European and American paintings, Dayton was a supporter of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
He is survived by his wife, four children, two stepchildren, 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis.