Consumer

Sarah Halzack is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She was previously a national retail reporter for the Washington Post.

Things are looking up at Target Corp.

The company announced Wednesday morning that its comparable-store sales increased 1.3 percent compared with the same period last year.

But it's a different number in the earnings report that truly offers the most reason for hope at the big-box retailer: Its impressive 2.1 percent increase in traffic.

Traffic Bump
Target experienced a significant improvement this quarter in traffic to its stores and website
Source: Company Filings

Target had been struggling awhile to deliver healthy growth on that measure. That it did so in the latest quarter suggests it is getting juice from some of its key initiatives. For example, it has focused on steering more of its marketing messaging and in-store signage to emphasize low prices. And it has been working to build more distinctive private brands, such as the fast-growing kids clothing line Cat & Jack.

The retailer should also be encouraged by its 32 percent increase in comparable digital sales.

And yet I doubt anyone at its Minneapolis headquarters is popping champagne over Wednesday's results. That's because, despite significant improvements, Target still has plenty of work to do to shore up its business.

E-commerce remains a stubbornly tiny share of its business, accounting for just 4.3 percent of total sales this quarter. 

And while it bumped up its forecast for full-year comparable sales growth, the new outlook still isn't exactly sunny. The company is now expecting a 1 percent decrease to a 1 percent increase on this measure. Sorry, if there's a good chance that Target could still end up delivering negative comparable sales for the year, it's not the most persuasive sign that the company has gotten its act together.

Target moved closer to the bull's-eye this quarter -- but it's not quite there yet.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Sarah Halzack in Washington at shalzack@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.net