“Target’s first quarter financial performance was better than our expectations, reflecting strong execution by our team as they delivered for our guests in a very choppy environment. After starting the quarter with very soft trends, we saw improvement later in the quarter, particularly in March,” said Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO of Target. “We are in the early stage of a multi-year effort to position Target for profitable, consistent long-term growth, and while we are confident in our plans, we are facing multiple headwinds in the current landscape. As a result, we will continue to plan our business prudently while preparing our team to chase business when we have an opportunity.”
Fiscal 2017 Earnings Guidance
In second quarter 2017, Target expects a low single digit decline in comparable sales, and both GAAP EPS from continuing operations and Adjusted EPS of $0.95 to $1.15.
For full-year 2017, the Company continues to expect a low single digit decline in comparable sales.
Target did not update its full year guidance for GAAP EPS from continuing operations and Adjusted EPS, but acknowledged that better-than-expected first quarter performance increases the probability that the Company will finish the year above the midpoint of its prior guidance.
First quarter 2017 sales decreased 1.1 percent to $16.0 billion from $16.2 billion last year, reflecting a comparable sales decline of 1.3 percent, partially offset by the contribution from new stores. Digital channel sales grew 22 percent and contributed 0.8 percentage points of comparable sales growth. Segment earnings before interest expense and income taxes (EBIT), which is Target’s measure of segment profit, were $1,178 million in first quarter 2017, a decrease of 11.0 percent from $1,323 million in 2016.
First quarter EBITDA and EBIT margin rates were 10.9 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively, compared with 2016 results of 11.5 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively. First quarter gross margin rate was 30.5 percent, compared with 30.9 percent in 2016, reflecting increased digital channel fulfillment costs. First quarter SG&A expense rate was 19.6 percent in 2017, compared with 19.4 percent in 2016, reflecting the impact of higher compensation and marketing expenses, partially offset by continued expense discipline across the organization.
Interest Expense and Taxes from Continuing Operations
The Company’s first quarter 2017 net interest expense was $144 million, compared with $415 million last year. This decrease was driven almost entirely by a $261 million charge related to the early retirement of debt in first quarter 2016.
First quarter 2017 effective income tax rate from continuing operations was 34.5 percent, compared with 31.6 percent last year. The increase was primarily due to the recognition of $17 million of excess tax benefits related to share-based payments for the three months ended April 30, 2016, and the net tax effect of our global sourcing operations.
Capital Returned to Shareholders
In first quarter 2017, primarily under a pre-existing trading plan implemented in 2016, the Company repurchased 4.9 million shares of common stock at an average price of $61.68, for a total investment of $305 million. The Company also paid dividends of $332 million, compared with $336 million in first quarter 2016.
For the trailing twelve months through first quarter 2017, after-tax return on invested capital (ROIC) was 14.2 percent, compared with 16.0 percent for the twelve months through first quarter 2016. Excluding the net gain on the sale of the pharmacy and clinic businesses, ROIC for the trailing twelve months through first quarter 2016 was 14.0 percent. See the “Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures” section of this release for additional information about the Company’s ROIC calculation.
Conference Call Details
Target will webcast its first quarter earnings conference call at 7:00 a.m. CDT today. Investors and the media are invited to listen to the call at investors.target.com (hover over “company” then click on “events & presentations” in the “investors” column). A telephone replay of the call will be available beginning at approximately 10:30 a.m. CDT today through the end of business on May 19, 2017. The replay number is (800) 568-3554.
Statements in this release regarding second quarter and full-year 2017 earnings per share guidance are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties which could cause the
Company’s actual results to differ materially. The most important risks and uncertainties are described in Item 1A of the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended Jan. 28, 2017. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made, and the Company does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statement.
In addition to the GAAP results provided in this release, the Company provides Adjusted EPS for the three-month periods ended April 29, 2017 and April 30, 2016. The Company also provides ROIC for the twelve-month periods ended April 29, 2017 and April 30, 2016, which is a ratio based on GAAP information, with the exception of adjustments made to capitalize operating leases. Operating leases are capitalized as part of the ROIC calculation to control for differences in capital structure between the Company and its competitors. Adjusted EPS, capitalized operating lease obligations and operating lease interest are not in accordance with, or an alternative for, generally accepted accounting principles in the United States (GAAP). Management believes Adjusted EPS is useful in providing period-to-period comparisons of the results of the Company’s ongoing retail operations. Management believes ROIC is useful in assessing the effectiveness of its capital allocation over time. The most comparable GAAP measure for Adjusted EPS is diluted EPS from continuing operations. The most comparable GAAP measure for capitalized operating lease obligations and operating lease interest is total rent expense. Adjusted EPS, capitalized operating lease obligations and operating lease interest should not be considered in isolation or as a substitution for analysis of the Company’s results as reported under GAAP. Other companies may calculate Adjusted EPS and ROIC differently than the Company does, limiting the usefulness of the measure for comparisons with other companies.