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Target rings up strong holiday sales growth of 5.7 percent

Jackie Crosby, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Business News

Holiday sales jumped 5.7 percent at Target Corp. during the November-December holiday shopping season compared to a year ago, fueling what could be the retailer's largest full-year sales gains since 2005.

The boost came as more people hit stores and shopped online, the retailer said Thursday, noting that the average amount shoppers spent increased only slightly.

The company's shares fell nearly 4 percent on pre-market trading, however. Some analysts pointed to disappointing results from Kohl's, which announced holiday sales grew a slight 1.2 percent. The lackluster performance may be stirring fears that consumer spending may not be as healthy as hoped against a backdrop of a volatile stock market and talk of trade wars.

Target is expected to report its fourth quarter and year-end results in early March. The company maintained its earlier guidance of fourth-quarter comparable sales growth of 5 percent and full-year adjusted earnings per share between $5.30 and $5.50.

"This performance demonstrates the benefit of placing our stores at the center of every way we serve our guests, including both in-store shopping and digital fulfillment," Target Corp. chief executive Brian Cornell said in a statement.

Target also announced a series of management moves that involve a half dozen senior executives.

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Among the announcements: Chief Financial Officer Cathy Smith will retire as soon as the company names a successor. Smith came to Target from Express Scrips in 2015, a year after Cornell became CEO, and will serve as an adviser until May 2020.

Target also created a new position to oversee the company's food and beverage division, and named Stephanie Lundquist, the current head of human resources, to the post.

Many of the nation's major retailers are expected to announce holiday results this week in what has long been forecast as a bumper year of sales growth.

In December, Mastercard SpendingPulse said that U.S. retail sales rose 5.1 percent between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 from a year earlier. The figures include online and in-store spending across all forms of payment.

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