There must have been something in the water supply in 1962. Somehow, three retailing giants were spawned nearly simultaneously. Wal*Mart, in Rogers, Arkansas. Target in Roseville, Minnesota. Kmart in Garden City, Michigan.

And thus the three major points on the discount compass were calibrated. Wal*Mart expanded throughout the Southeast. Target expanded from the Midwest. Kmart expanded throughout the Northeast. Today, all three are fully national. Wal*Mart is a huge global empire. The Dayton-Hudson Company is but a vague retail memory, rechristened in honor of Target’s success. Kmart, spawn of the famed “five-and-dime” Kresge, has acquired the venerable Sears.

At this ...

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