Target (NYSE:TGT) stock has been red-hot in 2019 for one very simple reason: the big-box retailer is on fire. Over the past several months, TGT has fired off quarter after quarter off hugely positive comparable sales growth, second-to-none digital sales growth, profit-margin stabilization, and strong profit growth. As shown by the struggles of Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN), Macy’s (NYSE:M), and J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP), TGT has achieved all of those milestones all against the backdrop of a shaky retail environment.
Investors have celebrated Target’s resilience and strength. That’s why Target stock is up more than 30% this year. As for the rest of the retail sector, the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (NYSE:XRT) is up just 2% in 2019.
This outperformance by Target stock will continue. That’s because TGT has found a winning strategy that boils down to transforming into a low-cost, all-in-one, omnichannel retailer. There are only three other retailers of similar size that can compete with TGT in this low-cost, all-in-one, omnichannel game. Their names are Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Walmart (NYSE:WMT), and Costco (NASDAQ:COST). In contrast to the other names in that group, Target has carved out a niche for itself by providing a higher-quality, physical-first shopping experience.
So TGT has not just found a winning strategy in the retail sector, but it has also created a sustainable niche for itself. That means Target will remain red hot for the foreseeable future, so Target stock will continue to grind higher.
Target Has Found a Winning Strategy
For a while, TGT was considered a left-for-dead retailer that would be gobbled up the e-commerce wave. But, over the past several years, two things have happened.Specifically, it became obvious that omnichannel, not e-commerce, is the future of retail, and Target’s innovations enabled it to to become a second-to-none omnichannel retailer.
On the first point, e-commerce is certainly where all the growth is happening in the retail world. But it’s not entirely cannibalizing the physical channel. Consumers still like to go shop in stores, whether to try things on, see things first-hand, or simply relish in the physical shopping experience, or combinations of those. That’s why e-commerce still represents just 10% of total retail sales, and why e-commerce growth rates are already slowing.
Thus, the future of retail is not just online. It’s a mix of physical and digital.
As for the second point, the vibrancy of omnichannel naturally benefits large physical retailers because it costs significantly more money to build a physical store presence than to build an online one. TGT realized the advantage its large network of stores gave it, and it has run with its edge. The company has innovated left and right, rolling out things like buy-online, pick-up-in-store; same-day delivery; and automated checkouts. All of these things have helped Target become a low-cost, omnichannel retail giant.
Importantly, TGT is different than its peers in the low cost, omnichannel game. Target offers a much higher quality shopping experience than Walmart, it doesn’t require a membership like Costco, and it depends more on its physical stores than e-commerce, unlike Amazon.
Target Stock Can Rise Further
TGT’s comparable sales growth has been 3%-plus for five straight quarters now, and roughly 5%-plus for four straight quarters. Its traffic growth has been 4%-plus for four straight quarters. TGT’s digital- sales growth has run north of 30% for four straight quarters and north of 25% for five straight quarters. Its margins, which used to be under immense pressure, are starting to stabilize.
Target’s winning and defensible strategy has produced very strong numbers for the retailer.
The company’s growth will naturally slow over the next several years as its comparisons get harder and its omnichannel growth initiatives become less powerful. But its growth should remain healthy, as Target has proven that it can and will remain an important part of the U.S. retail world.
As a result, 1%-3% comparable sales and revenue growth over the next several years seems doable. Its gross margins should stabilize during that stretch, as less steep discounts are offset by higher fulfillment costs. Its operating-spending rate should drop as it utilizes more automation and cuts some labor expenses. Target should report low-single-percentage-digit revenue growth and mid-to -high-single-digit-percentage profit growth over the next several years.
I realistically think $8.50 is achievable by fiscal 2025. Based on a forward multiple of 16, which is average for the market, that implies a fiscal 2024 price target for Target stock of $136. Discounted by 7% per year (rather than 10%, because of the 3% yield of Target stock), that equates to a 2019 price target north of $95.
The Bottom Line on TGT Stock
TGT is a winning retailer that has proven its staying power in the stable-growth, omnichannel retail world. As a result, it should be a slow and steady revenue and profit grower over the next several years. That slow and steady profit growth should keep TGT stock on a winning path, as long as the valuation of Target stock continues to remain in check.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long TGT, JWN, AMZN, and WMT.