Target CEO: Retail theft may cost company over $1.2B this year

Rampant theft is hurting Target's bottom line.

The company said it expects theft-related losses could be $500 million more than last year, when losses from theft were estimated to be anywhere from $700 million to $800 million. So that means losses could top $1.2 billion this year.

Target on Wednesday reported another quarterly profit decline and issued a cautious sales and profit outlook for the current period.

READ MORE: Target expands locked merchandise cases to hit back at shoplifting

The Minneapolis company is dealing with rising costs, which includes rising theft as a big factor, and consumers who have become more cautious about spending.

The company said it’s seeing an increasing number of violent incidents at stores and doesn’t want to close stores because that hurts workers and the community. The retailer said it’s embracing different measures, from expanding security to locking up certain items.

Retailers are being hit with a rash of thefts and in some case, closing stores and pulling out of locations because of massive losses, some tied to criminal gangs. The issue has received more notice in the past few years as high-profile smash-and-grab retail thefts and flash mob robberies have garnered national attention.


A logo inside a Target store in the Queens borough of New York, US, on Monday, May 15, 2023. Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter comparable sales — or those from stores or digital channels operating for the past 12 months — were flat compared with the year-ago period. That’s bit of a slowdown from the 0.7% growth in the previous quarter. Customer traffic was up, but shoppers focused on buying necessities like health and beauty and groceries over non-essentials. Comparable stores sales grew 0.7% but comparable online sales declined.

READ MORE: Inflation ticks up again in April, puts interest rate hikes back on the table

It’s the fifth-consecutive quarter that the retailer’s profit has slipped, although it was much smaller this time. Target reported a 43% drop in profits for the fourth quarter, a 52% drop in third-quarter profits, 90% in the second quarter and a 52% decline in last year’s first quarter.

First-quarter net income slipped nearly 6% to $950 million, or $2.05 per share, for the three-month period ended April 29. That compares with $1.01 billion, or $2.16 per share, in the year-ago period.

Sales rose 0.6% to $25.32 billion in the quarter, up from $25.17 billion in the year-ago quarter. Analysts expected earnings of $1.77 per share on $25.26 billion in sales in the latest period, according to FactSet.


A customer at the self checkout of a Target store in the Queens borough of New York, US, on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The company still topped Wall Street expectations and stuck to annual profit guidance above industry analyst projections. Shares rose 1.4% before the opening bell.

"We came into 2023 clear-eyed about what consumers were facing with persistent inflation and rising interest rates," CEO Brian Cornell said during a media call Tuesday.

Given this competitive environment, Target is continuing to make investments in stores and online.

The discounter said in early March that it plans to invest as much as $5 billion this year expanding services for customers, including a drive-up service for returns, renovations at 175 stores and improvements in online shopping.

How are other retailers performing? 

Target is among the first major U.S. retailers to report quarterly results, and a lot of attention will be paid to the impact that stubbornly high inflation and tightening credit are having on customers. Walmart reports earnings Thursday. Macy’s, Kohl’s and Nordstrom post quarterly results later this month.


In an aerial view, a sign is seen posted on the exterior of a Home Depot store on February 21, 2023 in El Cerrito, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Home Depot, the nation’s largest home improvement retailer, said Tuesday that sales for the first quarter fell 4.2%, and it expects its first annual revenue decline since 2009. Also on Tuesday, U.S. data showed that Americans picked up their spending modestly last month, buoyed by a solid job market and a retreat in prices for some things. But it also revealed how Americans are barely keeping up with inflation.