Target Sheds $14 Billion in Value on Retail Uncertainty, LGBTQ Backlash

Target Corp. has erased almost $14 billion in market value since it reported earnings last month, and some on Wall Street see more pain ahead for the retailer.

After popping on mixed results, the stock suffered its longest streak of daily losses since February 2000, falling for nine straight sessions through May 31. The drop came as a slew of retailers reported weak sales trends, stoking concern around a pullback in discretionary spending, and as Target faced customer pushback on its LGBTQ-themed merchandise.

“The current stock price could have been a good entry point, but it’s hard to step in front of the current uncertainty,” Wells Fargo & Co. analyst Edward Kelly wrote in a note to clients on Thursday.

The rout pushed Target’s valuation to the lowest level in more than six months, with shares trading around 15 times projected earnings. That’s far cheaper than Costco Wholesale Corp.’s multiple of nearly 34 times, and Walmart Inc.’s roughly 23 times. Yet Kelly and analysts at Barclays Plc reiterated their hold-equivalent ratings on Target this week, while JPMorgan Chase & Co. downgraded the retailer to neutral from overweight, citing weakening consumer spending power.

Target edged higher on Thursday to snap the losing streak amid a rebound in US stocks. Its shares were little changed in New York on Friday after briefly climbing as much as 1.6%.

Target shares have come under pressure in the past week or so as customers began pushing back on its Pride Month collection, prompting the retailer to remove some of the items. Wells Fargo’s Kelly warned that there’s early evidence of negative sales impact from the controversy. He said data from Placer.ai, a location analytics company, point to incremental traffic weakness in the week ended May 28.

“Traffic has been a key bright spot for Target as it struggled with margin issues, and a slowdown would be negative,” he wrote. “It remains to be seen how long any impact would last.”

While the average analyst share-price target suggests return potential of more than 30% over the next year, at $177, that is well below Target’s record high of $266.39 reached in November 2021. Target has 22 buy ratings, 17 holds, and zero sells among analysts tracked by Bloomberg.

JPMorgan analyst Christopher Horvers’ downgrade of Target centered on his expectation that the consumer is broadly weakening and shifting spending away from categories like electronics and home decor. Shares in retailers that get the bulk of their sales from discretionary goods, like Target, have generally fared worse than those in essentials-focused stores in the past year.

Horvers also said grocery inflation, which has supported sales growth for retailers including Target, is cooling. Meanwhile, the potential resumption of student-loan payments, stands to weigh on Target’s key millennial customer base.

“The company was already losing market share and we fear that these headwinds might not abate as we look to the back-to-school and holiday seasons” in the second half, he wrote.

By Katrina Lewis

Learn more:

The Shifting Politics of Pride Month

Target, Maybelline and others have been caught in an anti-trans backlash. How they respond could shape perception around their brands. That, plus what else to watch for in the coming week.

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