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Target's New Bull's-eye: $95 Billion

Can a company that generates $56 billion in annual sales, as Target (NYSE: TGT  ) does, grow by 14% a year? That's what consultant Retail Forward thinks, projecting that the retailer will boost revenue to $95 billion by 2010.

Target certainly has momentum. In the latest quarter alone, sales grew by 11.2% overall, while same-store sales rose by 4.6%. Net profit rose 16.3% over the same period. Both statistics speak well for the future of the retailer.

So, too, does cash flow: Target produced $608 million in free cash flow over the trailing 12 months. It'll have to keep that pace or better in order to meet Retail Forward's projections, which are based on the assumption that Target will add approximately 500 new stores over the next four years, including international expansion.

That's a bold prediction, given the amount of competition in the market. I'm not just talking about Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) . Retail Forward says that department stores such as J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) have co-opted Target's strategy of hiring designers to create exclusive clothing lines.

Meanwhile, grocery chains such as Kroger (NYSE: KR  ) and Safeway (NYSE: SWY  ) are taking steps to blunt the effect of all-in-one concepts such as SuperTarget. Management will need a staple of fresh ideas to keep same-store sales growth from stagnating, as it has at Wal-Mart.

Then there's that 14% figure. It doesn't sound like that much, especially with sales accelerating as they have, but in reality, it's a huge hurdle. Since 1992, which is as far back as we have data for Target, the retailer has never grown year-over-year sales by 14%. Not once.

So I wouldn't bet on Target reaching $95 billion by 2010. But I'd be plenty happy to bet on Target over Wal-Mart as an investor. Why? Capital IQ says that, compared to their projected growth prospects, Target and Wal-Mart are equally valued. Color me crazy, but when valuations are equal, I'll take the greater growth every time -- even if $95 billion by 2010 appears to be a pipe dream.

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Fool contributorTim Beyers, ranked 1,099 out of 15,079 inMotley Fool CAPS, rarely shops at Target. But he shops at Wal-Mart even less. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get the skinny on all of the stocks in his portfolio by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool'sdisclosure policyis always on target.

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