Target

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Target’s low-cost inventory has long appealed to customers in a tight economic times. To capitalize on increased traffic during the downturn, Target started to stock produce and food products, competing with some grocery stores.And to rev up a slowing U.S. growth rate, CEO Gregg Steinhafel is thinking small. This past year, Target announced plans to enter new urban markets with smaller stores in Seattle, Boston and San Francisco. Target also released plans recently to expand northward, by taking over 220 stores previously owned by Canadian chain Zellars. —S.D.

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Wal-Mart Stores

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Wal-Mart rules the Fortune 500 for the second year in a row — and the eighth time this decade — beating Exxon Mobil decisively in the battle to be crowned America’s largest company.But things haven’t been easy: Sales at its U.S. stores have dropped for seven straight quarters, despite gains in worldwide revenues and profits.

To fight back, CEO Michael Duke is restocking shelves with lower-priced products dropped by his predecessor, Lee Scott. He’s also jumping on the anti-obesity bandwagon: Thousands of packaged food items are being reconfigured to cut their salt and sugar content. —Peter Newcomb, contributor

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