Record traffic seen at Target

Unprecedented shopper traffic was seen at Target on Black Friday, according to president, CEO and chairman, Gregg Steinhafel, who also said the retailer provided exceptional service without offering much insight into sales.

“Our guests told us they want top gifts at a great value, and our team delivered,” Steinhafel said of what was a characterized as a very successful start to the Black Friday shopping weeking in which customers responded to deep discounts. “Whether online, on their mobile devices, or in our stores, guests shopped Target in unprecedented numbers. And, as always, our team provided the exceptional experience our guests have come to expect from Target.”

How much of that traffic was converted to sales is the great unknown however and as recent data from the National Retail Federation show large crowds and frenzied activity don’t necessarily translate to record results.For example, NRF data showed that spending declined over the weekend despite record traffic.

Average spending per person declined to $407 from $423 last year and total spending was $57.4 billion compared to $59.1 billion last year, according to NRF. Those declines occurred even though a record 141 million unique shoppers visited stores and Web sites Thanksgiving weekend compared to 139 million last year and there were a total of 248 million shopping occasions this year versus 247 million last year. The traffic and spending numbers are based on results of a survey conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics November 29-30 and involved 4,464 consumers.

Nearly 45 million shoppers visited stores on Thanksgiving Day, when Target opened at 8 p.m. this year, up 27% from last year, and 92 million visited stores on Black Friday, up 3.3% from last year. Shopping activity was also strong on the Internet where 59 million of those surveyed indicated they shopped at some point over the weekend. Of those who shopped online, the average spending totaled $177, or 43.7% of their total weekend spending, up from 40.7% last year.

According to Target EVP and chief marketing officer Jeff Jones, “starting in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day on Target.com, through our Thanksgiving night store openings, traffic across all channels was strong. I’m excited to see how guests respond to Target’s unbeatable value through this weekend, CyberWeek and the rest of the holiday season,” Jones was quoted as saying in a Target press release Friday morning.

The company went on to note that traffic and sales on its Web site on Thanksgiving Day were among the highest levels the company has seen on a single day and on Black Friday it had twice as many orders.

Target has fairly low expectations for sales following the release of third quarter results last month which saw comps increase 0.9%, below the company’s forecast for a 1% to 2% increase. As a result, the company reduced its outlook for the full year and now expects comps to increase 1% versus an earlier forecast of a 2% to 2.5% gain.