Wal-Mart and Target are American icons. Both were born in 1962; Target in urban Minneapolis and Wal-Mart in the tiny town of Bentonville, Ark. For four decades, they have eaten away at the dominance of department stores in American retailing — so much so that Midwest department store chain Dayton Hudson changed its name to Target 40 years after starting the discounter. Both discount giants succeeded by working closely with vendors to get good merchandise at low prices and relentless expansion. Target emphasized style at value prices; Wal-Mart squeezed every penny out of the bottom line, according to two new books. Here are the highlights:
By Laura Rowley (John Wiley & Sons, 256 pages, $24.95)
Strategy: Trendy merchandise at discount prices and frequent stock turnovers has trained consumers to pounce on what they like and come back often to see what's new.
Insider Info: Target is a tough negotiator. As part of a $27 million licensing deal, apparel designer Mossimo had to terminate its relationship with Dillard's, which accounted for more than 40 percent of sales.
Star Player: John Pellegrene, the retailer's former marketing director, was responsible for the Michael Graves collections, hip bulls-eye advertising campaigns and the Club Wedd bridal registry.
High Point: In 2000, Dayton Hudon renamed itself Target Corp. in honor of its most profitable division, which pulled in nearly $37 billion in revenues in 2002.
Low Point: In August 2002, outraged customers and the Southern Poverty Law Center complained about apparel items with an "88" logo, which turned out to be a white supremacist symbol. Target pulled the items.
Corporate Culture: According to the rules of “jetiquette,” the senior exec on each corporate jet flight acts as steward, serving meals and cleaning up afterward.
The Wal-Mart Decade
By Robert Slater (Portfolio, 256 pages, $25.95)
Strategy: Willing to make less profit per item, Wal-Mart reduced its margins and increased volume.
Insider Info: Some Supercenters can bring in more than $100 million per year. The manager of a successful Wal-Mart store can earn more than $100,000 per year.
Star Player: David Glass, former CEO, is credited with amping up Sam Walton's formula to turn Wal-Mart into one of the greatest growth machines of all time.
High Point: April 2002. With net income of $6.67 billion, Wal-Mart became the biggest earning company in America, topping the Fortune 500 list for the first time.
Low Point: December 1992. NBC's Dateline aired a Wal-Mart exposé, attacking the retailer's "Made in USA" ad campaign with footage of children in Bangladesh sweatshops allegedly sewing Wal-Mart apparel.
Corporate Culture: “Give me a W!” Wal-Mart team members have their own cheer, which includes the Wal-Mart rump shake.