Target's calculated 2017 holiday strategy seems to have paid off

The retailer went in with a calculated strategy – here's what paid off.
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The Essentials

1. Target's wide-ranging, calculated holiday strategy may have paid off. The company on Tuesday morning said comparable sales in all five of its core categories (that'd be Home, Apparel, Food & Beverage, Hardlines and Essentials) were up for November and December. Overall sales were up 3.4 percent, well above the 0-2 percent expected.

2. Products that sold especially well, CEO Brian Cornell said, include KitchenAid and Keurig, the home collection from the Fixer Upper stars, the Nintendo Switch (still), Apple iPads and Watches, and an assortment of kid's toys.

3. Target thinks digital sales will end up having grown more than 25 percent in 2017, and during the holiday period about 70 percent of online orders went through actual stores – whether through order pickup or shipping the items right to customers, the company said.

What Else You Should Know

Target put a lot into the 2017 holiday period after a disappointing previous year.

The retailer embraced the pre-set deal days such as Thanksgiving night and Black Friday. It also offered some headline-grabbing "one day only" promotions, like 15 percent off all digital orders and 10 percent off gift cards.

Special deals were spread out. Target stretched Cyber Monday into a whole Cyber Week, and regularly posted big weekend deals. Gift ideas – with all items under $15 – were packaged and offered throughout stores. 

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Exclusive brands and items took the spotlight, and often sold well – Stranger Things merch (including the light-up ugly Christmas sweater everyone wanted), that $10 bear shoppers snatched up, the above-mentioned Hearth & Hand with Magnolia line from Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper

And of course, for online shoppers: Free shipping on all orders, curbside pickup in some locations, in-store pickup until late Christmas Eve, and the next-day delivery option of Target Restock.

“We are very pleased with our holiday season performance, which reflects the progress we’ve made against our strategy throughout the year,” Cornell said in a statement.

Including the holiday sales period, Target expects full-year 2017 comparable sales to be up about 1 percent. 

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And recent moves have positioned the retailer to be an even bigger player with online shoppers in 2018.

In August, Target purchased shipping management software company Grand Junction, and followed that up in December by buying grocery delivery service Shipt for $550 million.

Target has said it wants to have same-day delivery available at most stores by the end of the year.

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