From: Reuters
Published December 6, 2007 09:42 AM

Target warns on December sales

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Discount retailer Target Corp <TGT.N> on Thursday reported disappointing November results and said sales need to "meaningfully improve" in December to achieve fourth-quarter earnings-per-share growth.

The retailer said sales were soft in the last week of November and if weak sales trends continue, its December same-store sales, which measure sales at stores open at least a year, will fall short of its previous forecast.

Target, whose shares fell 3.4 percent to $58.06 in pre-market trade, said sales at stores open at least a year rose 10.8 percent in November, which was in line with analysts' average forecast.

But adjusted for a calendar shift, the retailer said November same-store sales rose 1.1 percent, missing analysts' expectations of a gain of 3 percent, according to Reuters Estimates.

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Target earlier this month said it expected November sales at stores open at least a year to rise between 2 and 4 percent, adjusted for the calendar shift, but to rise in the low-double-digit percentage range without the adjustment.

Net retail sales for the four weeks ended December 1 rose 16.7 percent, to $5.97 billion from $5.12 billion for the comparable period a year ago.

Sales were strongest in automotive, health care and consumable goods while they were weak in toys, seasonal holiday items and jewelry, it said.

FORECAST FOR DECEMBER

Target had said that for November and December, its same-store sales would be affected by a change in the monthly retail calendar this year compared with last year. An extra week on last year's retail calendar has created monthly periods this year that are not exactly comparable to year-ago results.

Due to the shift, Target said seven additional post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping days will fall in November this year compared with a year ago, but six fewer pre-Christmas days will fall in December.

It said on Thursday that if weak sales trends continue, its December same-store sales would fall short of its forecast.

Previously, the retailer had projected that December same-store sales would rise 3 to 5 percent on a calendar-adjusted basis.

Excluding the calendar adjustment, it forecast that December same-store sales would fall in the low-single-digit range.

(Reporting by Nicole Maestri, editing by Mark Porter/Gerald E. McCormick)

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