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Target posts strong sales gains in third quarter

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Results include a 5.1% comparable sales increase

MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. on Tuesday reported strong third quarter results that included a 5.1% increase in comparable sales, a 49% in digital channel sales and a 5.3% increase in customer traffic.

Total revenue for the three months ended November 3 were $17.8 billion, an increase of 5.6% over the comparable prior year period. Operating income was $819 million, down 3.3% versus the comparable prior year period. Net earnings for the quarter were $622 million, up 30.2%, and adjusted earnings per share were $1.09, up 20.2%.

“Our team delivered another outstanding quarter, driving comparable traffic and sales growth of more than 5% and earnings per share growth of more than 20%,” Target chairman and chief executive officer Brian Cornell said in a statement. “We’ve made significant investments in our team heading into the holidays and they are ready to serve our guests with a comprehensive suite of convenient delivery and pickup options, a wide range of new products and unique gift ideas and a strong emphasis on low prices and great value. We plan to leverage our current momentum into 2019, when we’ll achieve greater scale across the full slate of our initiatives — creating efficiencies and cost-savings, further strengthening our guest experience and positioning Target for profitable growth in the years ahead.”

As solid as its results were, Target’s earnings per share figure came in below analysts expectations, and the company’s shares fell in early trading.

At least one analyst pointed out that the decline in Target’s operating profit was due to the investment the retailer has been making on its stores and its delivery capabilities.

“While this is unfortunate, we see this decline as necessary to support Target’s growth ambitions,” GlobalData Retail analyst Neil Saunders wrote in a report. “Some on Wall Street may lament the dip, but the truth is you cannot reinvent a retailer on the cheap. Target is not doing that and we applaud them for it.”

In the third quarter Target made capital investments of nearly $1.02 billion in property and returned $863 million to shareholders, including about $337 million in dividends and $526 million in share repurchases.

For the fourth quarter, Target expects comparable sales growth of approximately 5%, consistent with the company’s year-to-date performance through third quarter. For the full year, Target continues to expect adjusted earnings per share in the $5.30 to $5.50 range, and GAAP EPS of $5.41 to $5.61.

Target said Tuesday that it plans to issue a post-holiday financial update on Thursday, January 10.


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