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15 Shocking Facts about Target

15 Shocking Facts about Target

Target is well known amongst consumers – with the big red iconic Target, you know what the brand stands for – quality products at low prices. But there are a lot of surprising and altogether shocking things about Target that you’d be surprised to discover. For example, did you know that many of its products – including children’s toys – were once filled with lead? So much so that they were fined for the amounts of lead in its products, which went above the allowable level. It also stopped selling tobacco in its stores before it was common to do so, putting them ahead of the curve. After a bit of a nursing scandal several years ago, it now allows mothers to nurse anywhere on its premises – and fellow shoppers are not allowed to tell them to cover up. One of its employees, Alex Lee, went viral – all because of his employment with the store. There is also a reason for those iconic red balls outside of the stores – and its not for the reasons you’re thinking – its actually for your safety. Eerily, the store can tell if a shopper is pregnant by using sophisticated data analytics.

If your interest is piqued, keep reading to find out 15 shocking facts about Target.

15. Its products were once laced with lead


A few years back, the Center for Environmental health found something disturbing about some of Target’s products. From kid’s chairs, foam jewelry beats, and even toy boxing gloves, there were products that went over the federal limits for lead. For example, according to, in one of the chairs the lead levels were found to be 70 times the limit. In California, the attorney general’s office had to ask the retailer to remove the products from their stores. In fact, in 2009, it was fined $600,000 for importing goods with high lead levels. They had to recall their line of Valentine’s Day themed teddy bears.

14. It stopped selling tobacco before other stores


Almost twenty years ago, when many stores still sold tobacco products, Target ceased selling the products. At the time, they were criticized for their actions, but they were actually ahead of the curve. At the time it was still not uncommon to find tobacco products in stores. That being said, there was a growing anti-tobacco segment in the country, and the store was looking after its future sales. And cigarettes in their stores only constituted less than one percent of sales. Not long after that, many other stores stopped selling tobacco products, until it became more normal to do so.

13. It allows shoppers to nurse in its stores


Target had a bit of controversy back in 2011 when a mother in Target was asked to cover up while she nursed. Afterwards, mothers staged nurse ins at Target stores all around the country to protest. As a result, Target changed its policy (if it had one about this matter to begin with) allowing shoppers to nurse anywhere in its store premises — including the fitting rooms for those wanting more privacy. The policy also asks that shoppers leave nursing mothers alone, and directing them to use the fitting room if approached by a nursing mother to ask where she can go in particular.

12. One of its employees went viral


Most of us wouldn’t imagine that working at Target would make you into a celebrity, but that was certainly the case for Alex Lee. Back in 2015, the 16 year old Target employee, who worked at a Frisco, Texas store, had his photo go viral. The viral photo of him garnered modeling offers and tens of thousands of Twitter followers. Alex, unsurprisingly, left the Texas Target store where he worked to tour with other folks who have gone viral. He now has over a million Instagram followers. Now it appears he tours and makes guest appearances. Turns out working at Target can pay off in a big way.

11. There is a reason for the red balls outside the store


Those giant red balls outside of the Target stores are almost as iconic as its mascot Bullseye. But did you know they serve a purpose that goes beyond the decorative? The balls are actually called bollards. And believe it or not, they are there for the safety of its shoppers. Their purpose is to prevent cars from driving into the store and mowing down its guests. In general, bollards have popped up in front of many buildings to prevent the same thing. Target has at least made it look creative by the bollards falling in line with the general creative aesthetic of Target stores.

10. CVS owns its pharmacies


One of Target’s big draws is its pharmacies, but did you know that CVS is actually behind them? CVS bought Target’s dispensaries for nearly two billion dollars. Apparently, Target had some cash flow problems after the disappointing Canadian expansion plans, hence the CVS buy in. CVS is like the Target of pharmacies if you think about it, so their pairing up makes sense. CVS acquired over 1,000 pharmacies from Target stores in 47 states. The pharmacy giant will additionally have their branded pharmacies in brand new Targets. Surprising given that Target dominates in other areas of its products.

9. It can tell if you are pregnant


This is a bit eerie. Back in 2012, a Target insider informed the New York Times Magazine that data garnered from its shoppers could be used to determine whether or not that particular shopper is pregnant. This may be creepy, but Target is probably not the only store obtaining data analytics about its customers. This data targets items said shopper would be looking for during a second trimester pregnancy — such as supplements like zinc and calcium, lotions that weren’t scented, etcetera. It could then determine when that customer would give birth, and then offer them coupons/savings for their new arrival.

8. It had a scandal amongst its plus sized customers


A few years ago, Target ran into a scandal amongst its plus sized shoppers. A shopper happened to be browsing dresses on when she noticed that the sizes for a particular dress — a Mossimo kimono dress specifically — were marked dark heather gray with the exception of one size. The plus sized option was labeled “manatee gray”. The shopper, Susan Clemens, tweeted the option, and it went viral — but not in a good way. Target had to quickly apologize both to Clemens and all of its shoppers, sending out a Tweet. The color was changed to gray, and a bigger PR crises was averted.

7. It transformed traditional shopping carts


Did you know that Target is basically the reason shopping carts are the way they look now? Over a decade ago, Target came up with the idea to have less cumbersome shopping carts. This served practical purposes — a less heavy cart would not cause that much damage to people or things. And of course, it would be easier to move about their stores. Ease of moving about their stores equals more sales. The new cart they came up with was a whopping 20 pounds lighter than previous iterations of their carts. This innovation carried over to other stores, and soon lighter carts became a thing amongst more retailers.

6. Its mascot is treated like a celebrity


Bullseyes the Target mascot is almost as famous as Target itself. It should come as no surprise then that the mascot who sports the Target brand is treated accordingly. Bullseye has been around since 1999 and featured prominently in the store’s ad campaigns. There is a rider she had that dictates how long she works during appearances, and she even travels first class. Her rider even specifies that she had a private space to retreat to and a specific number of breaks every hour. Now there are obviously more than one Bullseye. However, the same one works in appearances until the next one takes over.

5. It has a test kitchen


Target has its own brands like Archer Farms and Market Pantry, which many of us know about. But did you know that it also has a test kitchen? The test kitchen features food scientists who, you guessed it, test and develop food products for Target’s brand lines. The scientists work on hundreds of new products every year. It is more sophisticated than you might think, with the team looking at what is happening in Europe food wise before hitting the US. And every single flavor of Target’s pizza is tested over a dozen times before making its way to the market.

4. One of its stores had a porn emergency


This was awkward. A Target store in San Luis Obispo was hacked by someone who got into their public announcement system to send pornographic noises over its speakers. Not the typical background music or hum of shoppers you would expect while shopping at Target. This happened on a Friday morning when the store was filled with shoppers. Target employees rightfully evacuated the customers and someone managed to stop the X rated broadcast from continuing on. No one knows how the prankster was able to get into and override the public announcement system, and the police were called to open up an investigation.

3. It opened 11 stores in 1 city — in 1 day


Target may have a family friendly and wholesome image, but it takes a hard line when it comes to its competitors. Back in March of 1993, Target opened 11 stores in Chicago. On the same day. Many believe this was intended to go after their big competitors at the time — Wal Mart and Kmart. In fact, it was the first time that all three retailers were fighting each other in the same market in such a large city. At the time the Chicago market was putting out sales in retail of over $7 billion, and there’s no doubt Target wanted a piece of that profit.

2. It started with a fire


It’s hard to believe that wholesome Target started with a fire — essentially. There was once the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But the church burned down in 1895, leaving the stretch of land vacant. Real estate developer George Dayton purchased the land for $165000, and used the now vacant stretch of land to build a large commercial building. He felt like something was missing, so he had Goodfellows Dry Goods relocate to his newly built property. Dayton himself also became a partial owner of the business. It was that business that had the family begin Target decades later in 1961.

1. It repaired the Washington Monument


It is fitting that one of the United States’ well known brands helped repair another well known national monument. Back in 1997, Target gave $1 million to the National Park Service. It even helped raise an additional $4 million to restore the monument. At the time, the Washington Monument was dilapidated and in need of repairs. This was the largest restoration done on the monument since 1888. Target got Michael Graves to come up with ways to reinforce the building’s structure as it was restored. Graves later went on to design products for the retail giant. So the current state of the Washington Monument has Target to thank.

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