According to this article from the Star Tribune, Target officials want to make something crystal clear: The two retailers are completely different companies. “Target Corp. has no affiliation with Target Australia,” said company spokesman Eric Hausman. “There is no relationship between our companies.”
But lest you think that some opportunistic Aussie opened a knockoff store in the remote outback, Target Australia operates 300 stores in major cities and suburbs across the island nation. Last year, the retail chain generated $3.7 billion in revenue, according to financial documents from corporate parent Wesfarmers. And the similarities are so strong between the two Targets that people sometimes get them confused, a problem that might get worse as U.S. Target further expands across the globe. Earlier this year, Target expanded to Canada, the first time the company has ventured beyond its American borders.
A spokeswoman for Wesfarmers would not comment on the situation. Founded in 1919 as a farmers cooperative, Wesfarmers has grown into one of Australia’s largest companies with over $57 billion in revenue in 2012. The company owns everything from supermarkets and department stores to makers of fertilizer and industrial equipment. So this naturally brings up the question: how did two retailers from opposite sides of the world ended up with the same identity? The answer is that the similar trademarks were neither the result of a coincidence, nor a formal business deal.
Born out of Dayton Hudson Corp., Target opened its first store in Roseville in 1962. Four years later, the discount retailer filed its first trademark claim and then another claim in 1967 that covered its bull’s-eye logo, according to documents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A year later, Target Australia, then known as Lindsay’s Target Pty Ltd., adopted the Target name.
Hausman said Target never licensed anything to the retailer. Instead, the founders of each company “had a conversation” at that time, he said, without specifying what was actually said.
In addition to Target, Wesfarmers also operates a retail chain called "Kmart" with a similar logo to the Kmart owned by Sears Holdings Corp. in the United States (as shown here). And oddly enough, they also own a chain called "Coles" which sounds an awful lot like our "Kohls".
It would not be surprising if the two Targets had some sort of informal, handshake agreement. Fifty years ago, retail was primarily a local business and there were very few global brands. The idea that Target U.S. and Target Australia would somehow cross paths seemed remote back then at best. But today, the growing prominence of the Internet has virtually eliminated geographic boundaries. Consumers can access Target Australia’s website just as easily as it can surf Target’s web page.
Target officials in Minneapolis deflected questions about whether the company will one day enter Australia, saying such a decision is many years away. But it’s not too hard to imagine Target would want to do so. Like Canada, Australia is a wealthy, English-speaking country whose 22.3 million people offer an attractive market for Target’s global ambitions. But Target could not legally enter the country without changing its name or buying out the Australian retailer. Same goes for Target Australia if it wanted to expand into the United States, however unlikely that might be.