Updated to include additional comments from Target's CEO.

Target (TGT - Get Report) had a solid start to the year compared with struggling apparel retailers in the malls, but it's still not immune to the broader consumer spending slowdown. 

The discount retailer signaled Wednesday that its second quarter may have started more sluggishly because of tepid consumer demand for apparel and the impact of protests over its stance on the use of women's bathrooms. 

Second-quarter sales may drop as much as 2% from the prior year. Earnings should be $1 to $1.20 a share, compared with Wall Street estimates of $1.19.

"We have seen a noticeable slowdown post-Easter," Target CFO Cathy Smith said on a call with reporters. Target's CEO Brian Cornell, who was also on the call, blamed the slowdown on unfavorable weather trends in the Northeast and volatile economic trends.

Cornell also said the company has not seen a "material" impact to its overall business from the protests, but has seen some hit to sales in a "handful" of stores. He declined to quantify the extent of the hit, however.   

While the company's view of second-quarter results has been tempered, executives still expect to achieve full-year adjusted earnings goals, Target said in a statement.

The retailer previously predicted full-year profit of $5.20 to $5.40 a share, compared with analysts' estimates of $5.17 a share.

Shares of Target fell about $5.51 per share, or 7%, midday Wednesday to 68.21 per share. The company has a market cap of about $40 billion.

"Target is now a question, and we are struggling with what to do because the degradation of Target month-to-month-to-month has [Target] confused themselves," said Jim Cramer, TheStreet's founder and manger of Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio, which owns TGT. "And when a retailer's confused itself, then I can't help them."

The Minneapolis-based chain reported first-quarter earnings of $1.29 a share, handily beating estimates of $1.19. Total sales clocked in at $16.2 billion, compared with forecasts for $16.3 billion. Same-store sales increased 1.2%, spurred by strength in the kids and health and wellness departments.