The discounter posted a 1.8% uptick in comparable sales, missing Wall Street's estimates of a 2.8% increase. The miss is predominantly due to weakness in apparel and home goods, with accessories, jewelry and women's apparel among the softest categories. Apparel, in particular, was hurt by unseasonably warm weather in November.
Target's grocery segment remains the bright spot, with Janney Capital Markets analyst David Strasser estimating food contributed about 2.5% to total same-store sales. "Essentially all comp was grocery," he wrote in a note.Strength in consumer electronics was more than offset by weakness in toys, movies, music and books. "The softness in toys is in part attributable to the layaway program at Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report), which is running ahead of expectations," Strasser wrote. Wal-Mart has been aggressively investing in price in its mission to reclaim its shoppers during the all-important holiday season. The No. 1 retailer pulled out all the stops, opening at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving evening, reviving its layaway program and introducing its price-match guarantee. If Target's results are any indication, Wal-Mart's goal of domination may be working. "Notably, this comp was in spite of opening stores at midnight on Black Friday this year and a rebound in the TV business for the industry," J.P. Morgan analyst Christopher Horvers wrote in a note. "With P-Fresh and RedCard contributions now peaking, these results highlight the challenges facing Target given ongoing modest trends in the core." Looking ahead, Target guided December same-store sales in the low-to-mid single digits, as expected. Target shares rose 19 cents to $52.89.