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This Is Why Shares of Target Are Sinking Today

Target StoreTarget Store
A Target store frontPhotograph by Lucas Oleniuk Toronto Star — Getty Images

Target (TGT) is a bit off the mark this year.

Shares of massive retailer sank nearly 3% Thursday after Barclays cut Target’s price estimate from $90 to $70 and tagged the stock as “underweight”—Wall Street’s nice way of saying sell—saying weak digital sales growth and pressures from e-commerce giant Amazon are likely to erode average sales per store.

“We believe Target’s comp store sales growth and margin expansion targets are optimistic, as the company faces substantial pressure within the general merchandise category from e- commerce,” a team of analysts led by Matthew McClintock wrote, referring to sales growth from existing stores, rather than adding new locations. “We don’t believe the company can achieve its longer-term goal of at least 3% annual comp stores sales.”

Barclays noted that the company last achieved a 3% sales growth in 2011, when the company rolled out two initiatives: increased fresh food offerings via P-Fresh, and rewards program RedCard. But the company it hasn’t hit that market since.

Target’s key opportunity to boost sales will come from digital, according to the Barclays’ analysts. But the retailer has also fallen short there. Last year, the company set a goal of increasing digital sales by 40% a year, but achieved only a 31% increase last year.

And it’s not just Target’s internal goals that are being missed. According to analysts, Target is falling short of its competitors in the digital game: Costco (COST), which has almost no focus on e-commerce, reported a larger digital business than Target. When Walmart’s (WMT) e-commerce platform was a bit smaller than Target’s, it was already growing at 40% to 50%, according to Barclay’s estimates.


And then there’s Amazon.

“We believe the underlying competitive dynamics of the general merchandise category, including heightened exposure to the threat of Amazon, would make it exceptionally challenging to even reach a 3% comp, much less consistently do so,” Barclays wrote.

Barclays lowered Target’s 2016 and 2017 earnings per share estimates to $5.25 and $5.65 from $5.40 and $6.00 respectively.