Target’s Holiday Sales Get Boost From Discounts, Warns on 2023 Earnings

Target’s Holiday Sales Get Boost From Discounts, Warns on 2023 Earnings
Shopping carts are wheeled outside a Target Store during Black Friday sales in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 26, 2021. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Target Corp. posted a surprise rise in holiday-quarter sales on Tuesday on higher store visits from discount-hungry Americans, even as it joined other retailers to caution on 2023 earnings due to an uncertain U.S. economy.

Shares rose 2 percent as the company beat quarterly profit estimates for the first time in a year.

Surging prices over the last year have hurt demand for non-essential products, forcing retailers to cut prices on everything from toys to electronics to clear stocks.

The discounts helped drive a 0.7 percent increase in customer traffic during Target’s fourth quarter, but contributed to a 3 percentage point decline in gross margins.

The big-box retailer forecast annual earnings of $7.75 to $8.75 per share, below analysts’ estimates of $9.23, according to Refinitiv data.

“Target had to lower guidance last year pretty quickly, so they don’t want to make the mistake again of getting overly aggressive with guidance,” John Tomlinson, senior analyst at M Science, said.

Retailers including Walmart and Home Depot had also last week issued conservative annual forecasts on worries about a steep economic downturn in the second half of the year due to rising borrowing costs.

“We’re planning cautiously, and we believe appropriately given the economic challenges we anticipate this year,” Target Chief Executive Brian Cornell said on an investor call.

The company’s comparable sales in the quarter ended in Jan. 28 rose 0.7 percent, while analysts expected a 1.5 percent fall.

Target in November forecast fourth-quarter comparable sales to fall by about a low single-digit percentage, as it witnessed a “precipitous decline” in discretionary demand.

Higher markdowns, however, helped bring down discretionary inventories by about 13 percent at the end of the quarter compared to a year ago.

The company said it expects full-year comparable sales in a wide range from a low-single digit decline to a low-single digit increase.

By Uday Sampath Kumar