The Journal Gazette
Thursday, January 14, 2021 1:00 am

Target's holiday moves pay off

After strong sales, plans to keep changes

ANNE D'INNOCENZIO | Associated Press

NEW YORK – Target's strong sales streak extended through a pandemic-shrouded holiday season after a hard push online and an increased effort to provide alternatives to customers who are trying to minimize risk.

The retailer reported Wednesday that online sales more than doubled between November and December. Sales at its stores opened at least a year rose 4.2%. Customer traffic rose 4.3%, and the average amount of sales per customer rose 12.3% as they consolidated trips to different stores during the pandemic.

And changes made during the pandemic once unthinkable have worked so well that they may become the new norm.

For example, Target closed all of its stores Thanksgiving, traditionally the starting gun for the holiday season, rolling out discounts and specials early and during a broader period to control traffic in stores. It said Wednesday that it will do it again in 2021.

Target gained market share in all five of its core merchandise areas. Sales were strongest in its home and furniture departments.

It aggressively discounted prices starting in early in October to get an early start on an unprecedented shopping season, offsetting the Thanksgiving closure of stores. Black Friday doorbuster deals went online as retailers tried to keep customers engaged while mobility was restricted by the pandemic.

Customers have responded in force to efforts by Target to help them reduce exposure to the virus through same-day store pickup for orders, and also delivery. Same-day services nearly tripled during the November and December period, the company said.

“Despite disruptions to the traditional pattern of holiday trade, retailers were able to thrive if they put their best foot forward and stimulated consumers to buy across the whole season,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. “In our view, this means that it is even less likely retailers will return to the big sales bonanza of Thanksgiving and Black Friday even when the pandemic is over. Target's decision not to open on Thanksgiving of 2021 underlines this point.”

Even with the push online, Target's 1,900 locations have become an even greater strength as infections surged and people tried to stay home. Drive-up service for shoppers grew the fastest during the holiday season, the company said, and about 95% of all sales were fulfilled by Target stores during the two-month period.

The Minneapolis company will report full fourth-quarter financial results next month.

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