Target (TGT) finally managed to not let Wall Street down with its quarterly results, but there is still one glaring problem.
On Wednesday, the discount retailer reported first quarter same-store sales fell 1.3%. While that was better than analyst estimates for a 3.6% drop, it marked the fourth straight quarterly decline in the key retail measure. Target, like other bricks-and-mortar retailers in the quarter, continued to experience traffic declines to its stores as people shopped online and waited for their delayed tax refunds. For Target, the result may a bit more of a letdown due to its efforts to slash food prices and improve product in-stock to compete with a resurgent Walmart (WMT) .
Wall Street shrugged off the sales choppiness, for now.
Target shares rose 0.9% to $55.04 in Wednesday trading as earnings blew away forecasts, due mostly to expense timing and other cost savings. First quarter adjusted earnings came in at $1.21 a share, hammering projections for 89 cents a share. Total sales clocked in at $16.02 billion, surpassing forecasts for $15.64 billion.
The company left its full year profit outlook of $3.80 to $4.20 a share unchanged, but acknowledged the better than expected start to the year may lead it to finish above the range's midpoint.
Target CEO Brian Cornell conceded on a conference call that the company has a ways to go before it's back to full health. "We aren't doing any high fives in the room," said Cornell.
"We expect a bounce in the shares today as investors digest likely upward revisions to earnings relative to the climate of fear and dread that preceded results," wrote Buckingham Research Group analyst John Zolidis.
Zolidis added, "Looking further out, our guess is that first quarter performance is unlikely to change the prevailing negative view that Target and most other big-box retailers are consigned to a fate of unending share losses. The company could begin to chip away at this entrenched opinion if it can show sequentially improving trends while simultaneously crafting a credible strategy from an omni-channel perspective."
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