Target power through pandemic; sales growth explodes in 2020

NEW YORK — Target extended its strong streak through the holiday quarter and sales grew by more than $15 billion in a pandemic year, exceeding the company’s annual sales growth over the past 11 years combined.

With the habits of millions altered because of the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, online sales last year surged by almost $10 billion and Target made it increasingly easy to shop.

Fourth quarter profits soared 66%, the retailer reported Tuesday, and sales jumped 21%, both topping Wall Street expectations.

Sales at stores opened at least a year rose 6.9% compared with the same period last year. Online sales soared 118%. Customer traffic in stores rose 3.7% and average dollars spent rose 15%.

In the previous quarter, same-store sales rose 10%, while online sales spiked 155%,

The Minneapolis retailer picked up $9 billion in market share from rivals in fiscal 2020.

Big box stores including Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart all had huge fourth quarters with Americans still consolidating shopping trips.

Like all big-box stores, Target was allowed to stay open during the early onset of the pandemic last year, while department stores and mall-based retailers were forced to temporarily close because they were considered non-essential. That increased the dominance of Target and other discounters.

Target, which had already been expanding its delivery services before the pandemic, pushed even harder in that area. Same-day services such as picking up orders inside the store or at curbside, soared 212%, led by drive-up service, which increased more than 500%.

And it’s omnipresent store locations have been an advantage. More than 95% of Target’s fourth quarter sales were fulfilled by its own stores.

Overall sales in 2020 rose 19.8 percent to $92.4 billion, up from $77.1 billion last year.

Target has also announced a series of partnerships that should help drive more shoppers to its stores. Late last year, it signed a deal with beauty chain Ulta Beauty that will place Ulta shops in more than 100 Target stores by mid-2021.

Target said that earnings reached $1.38 billion, or $2.73 per share, in the fourth quarter. That compares with $834 million, or $1.63 per share. Adjusted results were $2.67 per share, which topped estimates of $2.54 per share, according to FactSet.

Sales rose 21% to $28 billion for the quarter. Analysts were expecting $27.4 billion.

The company did not provide a financial outlook due to uncertainty related to the pandemic. Target was among many that pulled back on guidance at the onset of the pandemic. Best Buy and Macy’s both offered outlooks when they reported earnings results last week.

Target’s shares rose more than 1%, or $2.43 to $188.52 before the opening bell Tuesday.


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