OnTarget: How the world’s hottest retailer hit a bull’s-eye (2003) by Laura Rowley is a book about Target, one of the largest retailers in the country. Ms. Rowley has an interesting background- she is a former seminary student and a producer for CNN business news. It is this background, her desire to understand the “external world and the internal one”, that motivates her to start the book by remembering her interview with Edward Yardeni (chief economist at Deutsche Bank”) who told her: “Other countries have discovered that the meaning of life is shopping” (emphasis mine).
The book is divided into 11 chapters, which together provide a good overview of the history of Target, its present position in the industry, and what makes Target a unique company in a business dominated by a 800-pound Gorrilla (read Walmart!). It does a good job reviewing the early days of Target and “the legend of George Draper Dayton“, the founder of Dayton’s Dry Goods Company, the precursor to Target. George Dayton belonged to “a long line of pioneers” and counted among others “Jonathan Dayton, the youngest signor of the U.S. constitution and the namesake for Dayton, Ohio”.
Ms. Rowley’s book is written in an interesting style. After every chapter she has a “check out” aisle where she provides a brief summary of points that she thinks makes Target special. I can’t really say I particularly liked this “check out” section, and in a way I am not sure how it helps the reader, except in the sense of providing a sort of summary to the chapter. I did like, however, that the last chapter in Ms. Rowley’s book is about “challenges” that Target is likely to face in the first decade of the new century. Of course, the decade is now about over and the challenges Target faces are from over.