Target Dec. Sales Inch Up, Don’t Meet Expectations

The retailer's 0.9 percent increase in monthly same-store sales fell dramatically short of the expectations of Wall Street analysts, who had predicted a 4 percent jump.

Target Corporation's same-store sales inched up in December but failed to meet its own expectations and fell dramatically short of Wall Street expectations.

Same-store sales-sales at stores open at least a year and an industry barometer-were up 0.9 percent from December 2009, Minneapolis-based Target said Thursday. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had predicted a 4 percent jump.

Target Chairman, President, and CEO Gregg Steinhafel said that the retailer's December sales results were “below expectations,” adding that “strength in grocery and apparel was offset by softness in electronics, toys, and some home categories.”

Steinhafel said that sales in some “key gift-giving categories moved earlier into the holiday season, and lower-margin items drove a higher portion of sales than expected.”

Year-to-date, Target's net retail sales total $61.4 billion, up 3.8 percent over the previous year; its same-store sales, meanwhile, are up 2.1 percent.

Following the release of Target's December sales results, shares of the company's stock closed down 6.8 percent at $54.93 on Thursday.

In addition to releasing its December sales figures, Target also said Thursday that it expects fourth-quarter same-store sales to increase between 2 percent and 4 percent over the previous year-thereby reaffirming previously outlined expectations. The company also anticipates earnings per share to total $1.40 for the fiscal fourth quarter, which ends at the end of January.

Target-which operates a retail segment and a credit-card segment-now serves customers at 1,752 stores in 49 states nationwide and on its Web site. It is Minnesota's second-largest public company based on its revenue, which totaled $65.4 billion in its most recently completed fiscal year.