Target's January Sales Trail Forecasts

Unlike many of its retail peers, discount giant Target (NYSE:TGT) disclosed on Thursday weaker-than-expected same-store sales growth in January.

Minneapolis-based Target, which is the largest retailer to report monthly sales figures, said its same-store sales increased 1.7% in January, trailing consensus calls for 1.9%.

Target said its net sales rose by a stronger 2.2% to $4.3 billion last month.

“Target’s January comparable-store sales were below expectations, particularly in portions of the South and the Northeast,” CEO Gregg Steinhafel said in a statement.

Despite the sales miss, Target’s stock gained 0.26% to $53.62 Thursday morning amid solid gains in the retail sector. The stock has declined just over 11% year-to-date.

Steinhafel said Target’s PFresh remodel program continues to drive “incremental traffic and sales” and its new REDcard Rewards savings programs “continues to perform as expected.”

“While we expect the economic environment to remain challenging, we expect these two initiatives to drive even more meaningful increases in Target’s fiscal 2011 comparable-store sales,” Steinhafel said.

Contrasting with Target’s results, other retailers like Costco (NASDAQ:COST), Limited (NYSE:LTD) and Gap (NYSE:GPS) revealed stronger-than-expected January sales growth on Thursday.

Overall, U.S. retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters revealed a 4.2% leap in January same-store sales, blowing away consensus calls for a rise of just 2.7%.