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Target blows away third-quarter estimates

Company says it will have sufficient capacity to handle peak volumes

Target Corp. (NYSE:TGT) reported third-quarter results Wednesday that blew away analysts’ estimates, with GAAP earnings per share of $2.01 from continuing operations up 46% from 2019 levels and 40 cents per share higher than the median estimates of 12 analysts polled by Barchart.

The Minneapolis-based retailing giant also expressed confidence that it will have enough capacity to handle e-commerce volumes that will accompany a peak holiday season that CEO Brian Cornell said that “we’ve never seen before.”

Third-quarter revenue rose 21.3% over year-earlier levels to $22.3 billion. Operating income soared 93% to $1.93 billion. Net earnings rose 43.6% to a bit more than $1 billion.

Digital sales grew by 155%, accounting for nearly 11 percentage points of the company’s sales growth. The company’s same-day order and delivery services soared by 217%. The company’s digital sales have grown by an annual compounded rate of 45% since 2014, it said.

Wall Street reacted favorably to the news. Target shares were up more than 5% with 90 minutes gone in Wednesday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Inventory levels, which began the quarter down 3% year-on-year, ended the period up by 11%, the company said. Like every retailer, Target struggled to maintain adequate in-store stock as the pandemic forced U.S. commerce to pivot to an online world and disrupted legacy supply chains nationwide. In addition, anxious consumers continued to buy up essential in-store goods as fast as they could be put on shelves, leading to almost immediate stock-outs that couldn’t be replenished fast enough.

More than 95% of Target’s sales were fulfilled by its stores in the quarter, an impressive validation of Target’s strategy to leverage its nearly 1,900 U.S. stores as fulfillment and delivery centers. In May, the company began testing a parcel sort center concept in Minneapolis to improve last-mile deliveries and take the sorting pressure off its main stores. Target says the model should reduce costs per order by boosting package sorting productivity and cutting delivery times.

Target also acquired the technology assets of last-mile delivery firm Deliv in an effort to reduce the cost of last-mile deliveries by shortening the time needed to deliver to residences. Separately, the company said it will handle ship-from-store orders at its lower-volume stores.

During an analysts call, Cornell said he expected holiday orders to be spread fairly evenly throughout the cycle. Consumers began their holiday shopping, in some cases, more than a month ago when Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), the market leader in e-commerce, moved its delayed Prime Day two-day ordering extravaganza to mid-October.

Cornell said that he expects ordering activity to remain brisk all the way through Christmas Eve.

Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.

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