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Target Comps Stall In December

For the five weeks ended December 29, 2012, Target Corp. today reported that its net retail sales were $10.21 billion, an increase of 0.8% from the five weeks ended December 31, 2011. December comparable store sales were essentially flat versus the month last year, the company said.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters anticipated a 0.8% comp increase on average.

In a conference call, the retailer related that comp results derived from a low single-digit decrease in comparable-store transactions offset by an increase in average transaction size.

On a category basis, December comps were strongest in Food, which experienced a mid single-digit increase, as related in the conference call. Health & Beauty and Apparel both experienced a low single-digit comp increase, and Home came in up slightly. Comparable store sales in Hardlines decreased in the mid single-digit range. As regards regions, comps were strongest in portions of the West and softest in portions of the East.

“December sales were slightly below our expectations, as strong results late in the month did not completely offset softness in the first three weeks,” said Gregg Steinhafel, Target chairman, president and CEO in comments on results. “Similar to November, profitability for December benefited from our continued focus on achieving an appropriate balance between price investments and driving sales, combined with thoughtful inventory management. As a result, we expect Target’s fourth quarter 2012 earnings per share will meet or somewhat exceed the low end of our prior guidance. Looking ahead to 2013, we will continue to focus on profitably growing Target’s market share by combining unique merchandise, convenience, value and an unbeatable guest experience across our stores, online and mobile channels.”