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Barron's Target’s Profit Pops Nearly 60%, Setting Stage for Better 2024

Target wrapped up a challenging 2023 with a top- and bottom-line beat, setting the stage for a better 2024 ahead of the retailer’s annual meeting with investors.

The company’s fourth-quarter adjusted net earnings jumped 57.8% year over year to $1.38 billion, or $2.98 per diluted share. The per-share value topped analysts’ expectations of $2.42, according to FactSet.

As in Target’s previous quarter, the company reaped the benefits of having leaner inventories as it recovers from the overstocking that dinged profitability in the second half of 2022. Pared-down warehouses means Target doesn’t have to mark items down as aggressively as it has in the past two years, padding the bottom line.

Lower freight and shipping costs boosted profitability as well, the company said, as did broad-based efficiency efforts that Target says helped save over $500 million over the course of the year.

The company also is seeing a modest rebound in top-line growth. Revenue rose 1.7% compared with the year-ago quarter to $31.9 billion, ahead of expectations for $31.8 billion.

The increase, while slight, breaks a losing streak for Target. For the past two quarters, revenue fell on an annual basis as inflation crimped consumer demand, shoplifting increased, and the company got swept up in the culture wars.

“Our team’s efforts changed the momentum of our business, further improving our sales and traffic trends in the fourth quarter while driving profitability well ahead of expectations,” said CEO Brian Cornell.

Comparable-store sales fell 4.4% year-over-year, in line with projections for a 4.5% decline.

The company predicts comparable sales will be in the red throughout the current fiscal quarter, projecting a decline of between 3% and 5%.

Demand could pick up in the latter half of the year, however. Target’s full-year outlook sees comparable sales to be either flat for the full year or up 2% as store visits start to tick up.