financial
financial

Target Income Declines 7.5%

Target Corp. on Tuesday said first-quarter earnings fell 7.5 percent, due in part to disappointing sales as customers pinched pennies and shied away from discretionary purchases such as apparel.

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Target Corp. on Tuesday said first-quarter earnings fell 7.5 percent, due in part to disappointing sales as customers pinched pennies and shied away from discretionary purchases such as apparel.

Gregg Steinhafel, who took on the mantle of chief executive officer this month, said the company would stay the course and emphasize the "pay less" portion of its "expect more, pay less" tag line.

Earnings fell to $602 million, or 74 cents a diluted share, from $651 million, or 75 cents, a year ago. Revenues for the three months ended May 3 increased 5.4 percent to $14.8 billion from $14.04 billion.

Earnings per share came in 3 cents ahead of the 71 cents analysts were expecting, but investors traded the company's stock down 1.2 percent to $54.29.

"We are disappointed in our top-line growth," said Steinhafel, on a conference call with analysts. "As gas and food prices continue to rise and [the] housing market slows, consumers are facing increased financial pressure and [are] reducing their spending, especially in discretionary categories."

For Target, that means, among other things, weakness in apparel.

"I'd love to be able to tell you that there is a lot of exciting trends in apparel right now, but we'd settle for some positive same-store sales growth in any one of our apparel divisions," Steinhafel told analysts.

There have been a few brighter spots in apparel, though. The Converse launch has been successful so far and performance activewear and intimate apparel have been doing "exceptionally well," said the ceo.

With the imminent departure of Isaac Mizrahi, Target is focusing more than ever on its Go International initiative, which brings goods by designers such as Rogan Gregory into the chain for a limited time.

And Target is reacting to tepid consumer spending by doing some belt tightening of its own.

Selling, general and administrative expenses rose 6.2 percent during the quarter, slightly faster than revenues.

"The good news is they've been controlling expenses extremely well and they're doing a good job with inventory management," said Joseph Feldman, managing director and analyst at Telsey Advisory Group. Still, the company is struggling with the impression that it costs more to shop there.
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