7 Metrics Highlight Target's Strong Second Quarter

Target's (NYSE: TGT) second-quarter results are out, and they easily beat expectations. The solid quarter sent shares higher on Wednesday, with the stock closing the trading day up 3%. The well-rounded quarter featured a lot to like, including record customer traffic growth, surging e-commerce sales, and a more optimistic outlook from management for full-year earnings per share.

The stock's gain on Wednesday adds to a bullish run for the stock recently. Shares are up 52% in the past 12 months, leading to a pricier valuation. With the stock trading at a significantly higher price-to-earnings multiple than it was a year ago, investors would be wise to give Target's performance a good look to see whether the company is living up to its frothier valuation.

Here are some of the most insightful metrics from Target's second quarter.

1. Revenue increased 6.9%

This year-over-year growth rate marks a notable acceleration from Target's 3.4% revenue growth in its prior quarter.

Unsurprisingly, this sharp revenue growth meant Target handily outperformed the consensus analyst estimate for the key metric. The retailer reported second-quarter revenue of $17.8 billion. On average, analysts expected revenue of $17.3 billion.

2. Adjusted EPS climbed 20%

Adjusted EPS increased 20% year over year to $1.47.

Notably, however, this growth rate benefited from a lower tax rate this year compared to last year. "Second quarter 2018 effective income tax rate from continuing operations was 21.8 percent, compared with 31.4 percent last year, primarily due to the impact of recently enacted federal tax reform legislation (the Tax Act)," management explained in its second-quarter earnings release.

Adjusted EPS beat a consensus analyst forecast for $1.40.

3. Comparable store sales rose 4.9%

Target's 4.9% year-over-year growth in comparable store sales compared to 0.2% growth in the year-ago quarter and 1.9% growth in the company's prior quarter.

4. Customer traffic went up 6.4%

Helping drive Target's comparable store sales growth was a strong increase in customer traffic. Target's 6.4% traffic growth was a sharp acceleration from 3.7% traffic growth in Q1. Furthermore, Target's Q2 year-over-year customer traffic growth rate is the highest the company has seen since management started reporting the metric in 2008.

5. Comparable digital channel sales soared 41%

Highlighting Target's increasing emphasis on growing its e-commerce sales, comparable digital channel sales jumped 41% year over year -- an acceleration from 28% growth in Q1. Adding these sales to Target's 4.9% comparable store sales growth during the quarter, Target's overall comparable sales increased 6.5% -- the highest comp growth Target has achieved in 13 years.

6. A 30.3% gross margin

Despite Target's 6.9% increase in revenue during the period, gross margin fell from 30.4% in the year-ago quarter to 30.3% in the second quarter of 2018. This reflected "pressure from digital fulfillment costs, partially offset by the benefit of merchandising strategies including cost-savings initiatives and efforts to improve pricing and promotions," management said in its second-quarter earnings release.

7. Target expects full-year EPS between $5.30 and $5.50

With this momentum behind it, Target raised its outlook for full-year EPS. Management now expects 2018 EPS between $5.30 and $5.50, up from a previous outlook for 2018 EPS to be between $5.15 and $5.45.

Overall, Target's results show a strong underlying business, helping justify the company's higher stock price.

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Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.