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Target's Same-Store Sales Surge So Far in First Quarter as Shoppers Go Online

Target says that in April alone, comparable digital sales so far have jumped by more than 275% from a year ago,

Target  (TGT) - Get Target Corporation Report on Thursday said same-store sales over the past three months so far have surged amid a sharp increase in online sales as shoppers seek to limit time inside stores or avoid in-person trips outright amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In its fiscal first quarter, which began in early February, same-store sales rose by more than 7% from a year ago vs. a 1.5% gain in its fiscal fourth quarter, the company said on Thursday, as a "mid-teens" percentage decline in store sales was more than offset by a near four-fold jump in digital sales. 

Same-store sales fell 40% in apparel and accessories for April to date, but rose more than 12% in essentials and food and beverage, more than 30% in so-called hard lines and in the high teens in home products and furnishings. 

That follows same-store sales growth of 3.8% in February and an increase in the low double digits in March. On March 25, the discount retailer had said month-to-date same-store sales were up more than 20%.

In April alone, comparable digital sales have increased by more than 275% from a year ago, the company said. On a category by category basis, essentials like food and beverages significantly outperformed higher-margin items like apparel and accessories.

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“We’ve just seen Cyber Monday occur almost every day, except we've seen twice the volume we've normally seen on a Cyber Monday,” Target CEO Brian Cornell told CNBC on Thursday.

At the same time, while traffic in its physical stores is down significantly, changes the company has made including drive-in pick up as well as physical distancing measures have allowed Target to continue operations and generate same-store sales amid the pandemic, 

The company didn't provide any specific estimates for its upcoming quarterly earnings, though higher labor costs, the sale of more low-margin items and write-downs of inventory in apparel and accessories are expected to weigh on profits.

On Thursday, Target announced that it would extend its $2 an hour temporary pay increase for store employees, additional child care or backup care benefits and paid leave policy for older or at-risk members of its workforce until May 30.

Shares of Target were down 3.34% at $103.26 in trading on Thursday.