Target (NYSE:TGT) reported full fourth-quarter earnings today that missed earlier estimates after a less-than-stellar holiday season.

Growth slows down

This is Target's 11th consecutive quarter of positive comps as the company has powered up its digital options, offered competitive delivery options, and expanded its company-owned product lines.

Comps were up 1.5% with digital sales increasing 20%. Same-day delivery options contributed 80% of digital comp growth. Earnings per share came in at $1.63, a 6.9% increase year over year, with adjusted EPS at $1.69, up 10.6% year over year.

For the full year, comps grew 3.4% with 29% growth in digital channels. Same-day options grew 90%, contributing almost 75% of digital comp sales growth.

Target sales associate helping a drive-up customer.

Image source: Target.

A difficult holiday season

Target already let investors know that holiday sales fell short of expectations. In a previous release, CEO Brian Cornell said, "We faced challenges ... in key seasonal merchandise categories and our holiday sales did not meet our expectations." But, he want on to say, "We also remain on track to deliver historically strong full-year results in 2019, including comparable sales growth of more than 3% and record-high EPS reflecting mid-teens growth compared with last year."

The main product misses were in electronics, toys, and home goods. This was more acutely accounted for in the fourth quarter because they usually contribute a high portion of holiday sales and therefore make a stronger impact on the top line than at other times of the year. There was greater strength in clothing, beauty, food, and essentials.

2020 outlook

The company announced a low single-digit comps increase for the first quarter of 2020 and EPS of $1.55 to $1.75. Target stock fell in early trading.

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