Target continues to thrive in whirlwind retail environment

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 today that online sales surged 102% between November and December. Sales at its stores opened for a 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.

Target continued to gain market share in all five its core merchandise areas. Sales were strongest in its home and furniture departments.

Target was forced to come up with a new strategy during a period when store aisles are typically teaming with customers leading into Christmas.

It aggressively discounted prices starting in early in October to get an early start on an unprecedented shopping season. That offset the closing of stores on Thanksgiving, which for years has been the starting gun for the holiday shopping blitz. Black Friday doorbuster deals went online as Target and other retailers tried to to manage traffic in stores.

Customers have responded in force to efforts by Target to help them reduce exposure to the virus through same-day store pick up for orders, and delivery. Same-day services increased 193% during the November and December period, the company said.

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% all sales were fulfilled by Target stores during the two-month period.

The strategy of spreading out specials and discounts rather relying on a holiday rush has worked so well, Target says it will again close stores on Thanksgiving in 2021.

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