Target Forecasts Drop in Same-Store Sales, Shares Sink


Target forecast a surprise drop in full-year sales at established stores on Tuesday and reported a steeper-than-expected fall in holiday-quarter sales due to "unexpected softness" at its stores.

The retailer's shares tumbled nearly 12 percent in premarket trading.

Target's net sales have now declined for six quarters in a row as shoppers increasingly gravitate to online retailers such as Inc and spend more on big-ticket purchases such as cars and home renovations rather than on electronics, food and apparel.

The Minneapolis-based retailer said it expects sales at stores open for at least a year to decline in the low-single digit percentage range in fiscal 2017, after reporting a fall of 0.5 percent in 2016.

Analysts on average were expecting the company's same-store sales to increase 0.4 percent in 2017, according to analysts polled by research firm Consensus Metrix.

Target also forecast full-year earnings from continuing operations of $3.80-$4.20 per share, while analysts' on average were expecting its profit to top $5.00, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The retailer also reported a drop in gross margins as well as a bigger-than-expected decline in profit for the fourth quarter, reflecting pressure from discounting and clearance as well as costs from its shift from brick-and-mortar to digital channels.

"Our fourth quarter results reflect the impact of rapidly-changing consumer behavior, which drove very strong digital growth but unexpected softness in our stores," Target Chief Executive Brian Cornell said in a statement.

Target's results compare poorly against those of bigger rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which last week reported higher-than-expected U.S. sales for the holiday quarter as its low prices attracted more customers to its stores and online activity accelerated.

Wal-Mart and Kroger have been aggressively cutting prices to gain market share.

Target's net income slumped to $817 million, or $1.45 per share, in the three months ended Jan. 28, from $1.43 billion, or $2.32 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of $1.51 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The big box retailer's same-store sales fell 1.5 percent, missing analysts' average estimate of a decline of 1.3 percent, according to research firm Consensus Metrix.

Net sales fell 4.3 percent to $20.69 billion. Analysts had expected $20.70 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Target's gross margin rate declined to 26.9 percent from 27.9 percent.

Target's shares slumped 11.8 percent to $59 in premarket trading. Up to Monday's close, they has fallen about 6 percent since Target warned in January on its fourth-quarter results.

(Reporting by Richa Naidu in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)