Target reports 4Q losses after losing Canada division

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NEW YORK — Target Corp. delivered a cautious profit outlook for the first quarter and reported a loss in its fourth quarter, dragged down by costs to end its money-losing foray in Canada.

But the discount retailer recorded stronger-than-expected sales during the holiday period as shoppers bought more clothing and other items.

The results, which included the second consecutive increase in a key sales measure in a year, come a little more than a month after the discounter announced it was giving up on Canada and focusing on revving up its U.S. business.

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The closing was the first major move by CEO Brian Cornell, who took over last August and who is charged with reclaiming the retailer’s image as a purveyor of cheap chic fashions.

The results also show how the Minneapolis-based company is successfully moving past a massive data breach disclosed a week before Christmas 2014 that compromised millions of credit and debit cards. That caused shoppers to flee for months and hurt sales and profits. It was one of the major reasons behind the abrupt departure of CEO Gregg Steinhafel, who resigned last May.

Target’s business is benefiting as middle-income shoppers are feeling some relief from lower gas prices and from an improving economy. But Target says that its moves to bring in trendier merchandise and cater to shoppers who are increasingly going online have been the bigger factors behind stronger sales.

The discounter has been playing catch-up online and revamping its apps. It also reduced its minimum online purchase to qualify for free shipping in half to $25. Target had a successful shopper reception to its free shipping offer with no strings attached over the holiday season.