Target and Steelcase are celebrating milestone birthdays in 2012. The retail giant has completed 50 years of being in business while the famed furniture company is 100 years old this year. This is pretty amazing if you consider how these companies have survived see-sawing market climates for this long.
A recent study found that the average life expectancy of a company in the S&P 500 has dropped precipitously, from 75 years (in 1937) to 15 years in a more recent study. It’s a well-known truth that big corporations die because their managers focus on the economic activity of producing goods and services so much that they forget that their organizations’ true nature consists of a community of humans. So what is Target and Steelcase’s magic business formula to their longevity? The two companies are renowned for shaking up the notion of what can be constituted as ‘traditional’. As times and audience tastes evolved, both have revolutionized and transformed their business strategies time and again to match those changes.
Target, one of the pioneers of modern retail, is responsible for forever changing the way shoppers shop by offering well-made products at discount prices. Since opening the first store 50 years ago in May 1962, Target has grown to include 1,765 stores. In recent years, the retail store took the concept of designer partnerships to new heights and coined the phrase ‘cheap chic.’ It created a discount store that successfully appealed to a demographic not accustomed to buying at discount. Target, which originally started as Daytons, a department store, now attracted both the middle class and even affluent shoppers. On it’s website, the company proudly states, “In the years since our department-store roots evolved into discount-store savvy, we’ve watched our innovations lead to retail revolutions, and our team, guests and partners build better communities where we live and work.” Target and Target Commercial Interiors, its office solutions arm, continue to switch up their offerings to excite and entice their customers changing palates.
Steelcase has transformed itself from traditional manufacturer to industry innovator, known as much for the insights behind its furniture as for the products themselves. This is especially evident in recent years with the revolution in work styles and worker attitudes. Thanks to the new employee force of office-based, non-office-based and home-based mobile workers; Steelcase seamlessly evolved their designs to produce revolutionary products to match the new work environment and answer the needs of their customers. CEO Jim Hackett believes the company’s future success depends on continuing to develop insights about people at work, and then helping companies make the most of those insights.
In short, both Steelcase and Target embrace the idea of serving their communities by making it a point to listen to their customers, and staying nimble and flexible to accommodate changes.
Happy birthday, Steelcase and Target. May you continue to be visionaries forever.