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Why Target sometimes doesn't have the stuff you came in for

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Loyal Target shoppers are frustrated when they sometimes can't find staples on the shelves at the discount stores.

An analysis in the Star Tribune said the Minneapolis-based retailer employs a complex stocking system that "at times outpaced its supply chain." After the key Black Friday weekend, the story noted that Target.com was out of stock on nearly 60 percent of the top holiday toys, a percentage that was far higher than rivals Wal-Mart, Kmart and Amazon.com.

Target's lean inventory system has helped to drive profits, but experts say Target’s perceived shortages in food and household items create disappointment for shoppers who come in seeking staples.

Target officials deny that stores frequently run out of goods. Of the 2 million customers who took online surveys this year, “overwhelmingly the guests are highly satisfied not just for the overall shopping experience but for being able to buy what they came to purchase,” said Keri Jones, senior vice president of merchandise planning.

Target’s debut in Canada earlier this year was troubled when new customers complained about empty shelves and shortages of grocery products. A story last month in the Toronto Star said Target Canada had addressed its inventory shortages, noting that many of the stores now have excess inventory in housewares and apparel. The story also said Target has gathered more information about how Canadian customers shop and adjusted inventory accordingly.

Last March, Bloomberg noted that Wal-Mart was plagued by the same problem, with consumers complaining that basic items, like cold medicine, bandages, mouthwash, hangers, lamps and fabrics were frequently out of stock. Wal-Mart's empty shelves were blamed on a lack of workers to restock the shelves. The story said that the world’s largest retailer had added 455 Wal-Mart stores, but had seen its U.S. workforce drop by about 20,000. Bloomberg reported that Wal-Mart appointed an executive vice president to work on the restocking issue.

Despite the struggles, the Business Journal reported that on Monday that Target was included in Fortune Magazine's "20 Top Picks from 20 Star Investors" as a top choice for 2014. An analyst with Invesco Diversified selected Target on the expectation that the company would reduce capital expenditures by $1 billion and likely bring its extra cash to investors.

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