The time to ponder that question is when everything is going right, which pretty much seems to be the case at Target these days. The company’s stable senior leadership team has articulated a clear strategy that is being well-executed and delivering expectation-exceeding results such as a 5.5% gain in November same-store sales and third quarter earnings per share that surged 28.5% to 74 cents.
That Target is producing such results in a challenging competitive environment is one thing, but what get’s analysts excited is the fact that such initiatives as PFresh and 5% Rewards are gaining traction, which provides visibility into future results as their rollout continues. Meanwhile, the development of smaller-format stores and international growth present longer-term growth opportunities. Throw in the company’s track record of increasing its dividend and a credit card segment where the performance is characterized as outstanding and it is easy to see why shares of Target are trading near their 52-week high of roughly $60.
So what’s not too like? Well, there are a couple small things that should at least be on the company’s radar for no other reason than successful companies must constantly fend off the natural human tendency to become complacent. One potential issue involves Target becoming a victim of its own success. As Target gains increased customer traffic risks undermining the very shopping experience that made its stores a desirable alternative to the chaos and clutter that were commonplace at other discount stores.
Having stores that are too busy is a nice problem to have in retail, and Target isn’t there yet with only 462 of its 1,752 stores in the PFresh format. However, the issue has been somewhat evident lately as hundreds of PFresh stores received their first holiday stress test with larger than normal crowds attracted by aggressive food and consumable prices making store aisles seem narrow and the holding power of shelves inadequate.
Then there is the issue of product assortment. PFresh stores carry a large percentage of the product sold in Target’s 251 SuperTarget stores, but that’s not saying much, as the SuperTarget assortment tends to be more limited than conventional supermarkets or Walmart supercenters. The reason this is an issue is because an increasing percentage of cost conscious shoppers are clipping coupons and they are intent on redeeming them. While Target’s assortment of branded goods is adequate, it is by no means extensive, which means some shoppers intent on redeeming coupons could be forced to shop elsewhere.
Both of these prospects may be unlikely or easily address, but with so many things going right at Target it is the ideal time to ask, “what could go wrong?”