By Sarah Nassauer
Target Corp. said sales rose steadily in its most recent quarter, as demand for household goods and home office supplies continued to grow during the pandemic, while shopping shifted online.
Comparable sales, those from stores or digital channels operating for at least 12 months, increased 20.7% in the quarter ended Oct. 31, as more shoppers came to stores, spent more during each visit and online sales soared. Digital comparable sales grew more than twofold during the quarter, the company said.
Target said comparable sales rose 24.3% in the quarter ended Aug. 1, its highest ever quarterly sales increase.
After an uncertain start to the school year, Target saw back-to-school sales pick up in late August and September, CEO Brian Cornell said on a call with reporters. Even after the spending impact of spring stimulus checks and pandemic-related supplemental unemployment benefits petered out, Target continued to see about 20% sales growth in September and October, Mr. Cornell said.
"We haven't seen that dissipation," he said.
Target and other retailers started to push holiday deals earlier this year in October to reduce store crowding and smooth pressure on the e-commerce supply chain. "The guest seems to be responding well to the changes we made in our holiday cadence," Mr. Cornell said.
Big-box stores such as Target, Walmart Inc., Home Depot Inc. and Lowe's Cos. have generally fared well during the pandemic, enticing shoppers with a one-stop place to shop, as well as in-demand product categories such as food and home-improvement supplies. In contrast, many department stores and apparel retailers have struggled -- forced to close early in the pandemic -- and were already weakened as shopping has shifted online in recent years.
Target is picking up sales from some of those competitors. The retailer is gaining market share across all five of its main product categories, including electronics, home goods and apparel, the company said. Sales of electronics rose more than 50% in the quarter, while food and beverage sales grew under 20% and apparel less than 10%, Mr. Cornell said Wednesday on a conference call.
Many investors are looking ahead to next year, trying to determine how a potential coronavirus vaccine could impact demand for food and home goods or shift the retail landscape. Executives at several retailers that reported earnings this week have said they don't know what to expect, but aim to be flexible.
"We're going to go into the first half of 2021 facing the continued pandemic, waiting for vaccines, looking for greater clarity around the condition of the economy and unemployment," said Mr. Cornell on the call. "I think we're going to just have to make sure that we remain flexible and provide the assortment and the services and the safety that the guest is looking for."
On Tuesday Walmart said its most recent quarterly comparable sales grew strongly -- but at a slower pace than earlier in the pandemic -- up 6.4%. October retail sales reported Tuesday grew 0.3% from the month earlier, the slowest monthly growth since May.
In recent years, Target has invested heavily to use stores as fulfillment centers for online orders, efforts that are paying off during the pandemic, said Mr. Cornell. Demand for same-day online pickup and delivery services grew more than threefold in the quarter, the company said.
Revenue in the third quarter hit $22.6 billion, up from $18.7 billion a year earlier. Earnings per share grew to $2.79 from $1.36 a year earlier.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires