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Can Target Surpass Walmart?
TARGET STORES, the crown jewel of the Target Corporation, would appear to have everything: zippy ads, fast-growing sales and exclusive merchandise that people rave about. But inside the headquarters tower here, where Target's decisions are made, no one is about to relax.
With Kmart hobbled by bankruptcy, it is Target that now gets the attention of Wal-Mart Stores, the biggest retailer in the land and the biggest company, too. Every successful step that Target takes -- signing designers to make baby bottles and little black dresses, moving deeper into the grocery business, persuading more and more upper-middle-class shoppers to become upper-middle-class bargain hunters -- brings it into closer confrontation with the $218 billion behemoth that is Wal-Mart.
At stake are the wallets of the growing number of consumers who shop discount stores by choice.
In most respects, the Target Corporation -- which also owns the Marshall Field's and Mervyn's department stores -- is performing spectacularly well. It reported sales of $39.9 billion for the most recent fiscal year, mostly from its 1,100 Target stores, pushing it ahead of the beleaguered Kmart to make Target the nation's second-biggest discounter. Analysts are impressed with its earnings, which soared 36 percent, to $345 million, in the most recent quarter as revenue increased 15 percent, to $9.59 billion. Their enthusiasm is reflected in Target's share price, which rose 27 percent last year, although it is off around 6 percent this year.
By comparison, Wal-Mart's sales in the first quarter rose 14.4 percent, to $55 billion. Its net income in that period jumped 19.7 percent, to $1.7 billion.
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