What happened

Retailing giant Target (NYSE:TGT) outpaced a booming market last month as the stock gained 11% compared to an 8% spike in the S&P 500, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The move put long-term shareholders a step closer to positive territory, as shares are down by just 2% in the past year.

A busy escalator in a shopping mall.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Investors cheered the company's holiday sales update, in mid-January, which showed stability in Target's growth rebound. Sales at existing locations rose by just under 6%, management said, mainly thanks to a robust online business. The company has been working at turning its stores into flexible multichannel fulfillment nodes, and that strategy appears to be helping drive customer traffic both online and in its physical locations.

Now what

CEO Brian Cornell and his team say the holiday-season results will keep the company on pace to meet its sales and profit guidance for the full year. However, the modest revenue growth came during a period of robust expansion for the wider industry. Overall profitability fell, as well, due to aggressive spending in the digital sales channel.

Those drawbacks give investors some good reasons to be cautious about Target's long-term earnings power while they wait for more evidence of stable sales and profit growth to develop.

Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.