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Target posts weak results as discretionary spending remains pressured


By Siddharth Cavale

(Reuters) – Target on Wednesday forecast current-quarter comparable sales and profit largely below Wall Street expectations after weak discretionary spending dented its first-quarter results, and said it continues to expect the consumer to be cautious.

While inflation has moderated, most Americans remain uncomfortable with food prices and are still actively looking for ways to keep their spending in check. High gas prices, mortgages and car insurance premiums are also squeezing balance sheets.

“We remain cautious in our near-term growth outlook and we expect consumer discretionary trends to remain pressured in the short term,” Christina Hennington, Target’s chief growth officer, said on a media call.

Shoppers remain “concerned” due to higher interest rates, economic uncertainty and higher credit card balances, she added, noting that consumer confidence took a meaningful dip in April.

Comparable sales for the first quarter ended May 4 declined 3.7%, in line with expectations, marking the fourth straight decline. Strong beauty sales partially offset a slowdown in discretionary items such as home furnishings, furniture and appliances. Apparel sales improved from the prior quarter, Target said.

Average traffic and the amount spent at the till declined 1.9% in the quarter.

Walmart (NYSE:WMT)’s results last week were in contrast to Target as its heft in grocery helped it attract shoppers who prioritized food and household items, like toilet paper and detergent. The retail bellwether raised its outlook, anticipating improved spending over the rest of the year.

Target maintained its full-year target, with comparable sales seen flat to up 2%, and earnings of $8.60 to $9.60 per share.

The Minneapolis-based retailer reported first-quarter earnings of $2.03 per share, while analysts estimated $2.06. It wasn’t immediately clear if the figures were comparable.

For the second quarter, it expects comparable sales flat to up 2%, and adjusted earnings of $1.95 to $2.35 per share. Analysts on average had anticipated a comparable sales increase of 1.39% and a profit of $2.19 per share.

Target said Monday it would lower prices on at least 5,000 products ranging from milk and paper towels to pet food and diapers. This followed its move in January, where it introduced “dealworthy,” a new line of 400 products starting below $1 and most products under $10.

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