We’ve always been fascinated by retail Target‘s story, and we’re not just saying that because it makes a nice segue into this story. When we first encountered one of their outlets, some fifteen or so years ago, it was a dumpy, nothing-special K-Mart clone. Then, almost in a blink of an eye, it became this huge, important, flashy empire. And despite being a discount retailer, they somehow figured out how to harness design and make it work for them, instead of their competitors, like Sears or the aforementioned K-Mart, who seemed to exist purely to punish anything even remotely related to quality design. But now it looks like we might be in the third chapter of this “rags to riches to rags” story, as seen in this BusinessWeek story about how Target is beginning to suffer due to this financial hiccup we find ourselves in the middle of. Consumers have suddenly started to shift back to the less showy stores, possibly because Target’s design-focus has started to backfire (e.g., people begin to think of Target as a more expensive retailer, due to the perceived quality of their merchandise). So what does Target do during this decline? Well, for now, they’ve apparently pulled an Obama and are staying cool and collected in the face of pressure, deciding to go full-steam ahead with planning to focus even more heavily on design and continuing to hire even more “name” designers to create products for their stores. A gutsy move and we’ll be anxious to see what happens.