Until recently, Target (NYSE:TGT) had the masses in thrall, thanks to healthy performance when compared to rival Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). But times have changed. Now that Wal-Mart reports supposedly "good" news, the headlines -- and investors -- are going ga-ga over the Bentonville behemoth. Has Target become yesterday's news?

Target's same-store sales in September rose a mere 1.2%, compared to an impressive 6.7% comps increase this time last year. Total sales increased 6.2% to $5.19 billion. The company said its yearly profit will come in below previous earnings guidance for $3.60 per share, the figure analysts were expecting. 

True, its missed comps expectations and disappointing on guidance aren't exactly thrilling for the short term. But a quick glance at many retail stocks' moves today illustrates a rally that few of them actually earned, by any measure of performance. Some of them are up significantly, even though they didn't report any data at all.

A single month of sales data is no reason to go hog-wild, and it's pretty clear that September was a pretty lame month for a lot of retailers. Wal-Mart may have improved its profit guidance, but that's not because the consumer actually consumed all that much in September.

I think companies like Target and Costco (NASDAQ:COST) can deliver bulk joy, even in difficult macroeconomic environments. Both retailers are adept at gauging what their customers want, and offering those items at a discount. They both attract a more affluent customer than most discounters, too. That doesn't mean the short term won't have some bumps in the road, but I happen to like Target very much for the long term.  

Target might now seem like old hat to some investors, but so what? More prudent investors are probably waiting for a less topsy-turvy day than this to shop for the retail stocks they've been eyeing. If Target stumbles a bit in the short term, it might eventually present a good opportunity to get shares on the cheap.

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Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Costco is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.