All discounters are not created equal. Though Target(NYSE: TGT) may have Cynthia Rowley offerings, splashy commercials, and a more yuppie-oriented image, its fourth-quarter results still lagged Wal-Mart's(NYSE: WMT).

Sometimes being the coolest kid on the block just doesn't pay as much as being the biggest.

Target's sales for the quarter ended Feb. 1 rose 6.4% to $14.061 billion. Comps declined by 2.2%. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, booked sales of $71 billion for the fourth quarter, an increase of 10.7%, and managed a comps gain of 2.7%. With incomes tight and war looming, it appears shoppers opted for "Everyday Low Prices" this season.

On the earnings side, there's even greater disparity. Target netted $688 million, ahead of the previous quarter's $658 million by 4.4%. It hit the analysts' bull's-eye with earnings per share of $0.75. Wal-Mart's earnings, though, ballooned 15.5% to $2.5 billion.

An area of concern for Target is its enormous growth in accounts receivable. They shot up at year's end by 45% to $5.6 billion. Sales for the fiscal year only improved 10.3%. That's a scary deviation.

Its credit operations may end up biting the company, much like they bitSears(NYSE: S). On its store credit card, for instance, 5.1% of total balances are past due. Cash flow from operations is down dramatically year over year because of those expanding receivables.

Wal-Mart doesn't have this problem. With quarterly sales of $71 billion and annual sales of $244.5 billion, its receivables are a mere $2.1 billion, 5% higher than last year.

Hopefully, Target will get its credit problems in order quickly. For it to compete with Wal-Mart, it's going to have to.