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November comps may decline double digits


It should come as a surprise to no one that the monthly sales figures Target is set to release this Thursday are not expected to be good. The company said in early November it expected same-store sales to decline between 6% and 9%, after a decline of 4.8% in October. The company also appeared to lower expectations further on Nov. 17, when it released third-quarter financial results and cfo Doug Scovanner commented that sales were trending lower than that company had expected. Now, some analysts are forecasting that Target could actually see same-store sales dip into negative double digits.

Target won’t be alone when it reports weak November sales, but the headline number will appear much worse than it actually is due to this year’s late Thanksgiving holiday and a shift in the retail reporting calendar.

This year, Thanksgiving fell on fell on Nov. 27 and Target’s four week reporting period ended on Nov. 29, so the company missed out on holiday sales that would normally be included in its results when Thanksgiving falls earlier in the month. That was the case last year when Thanksgiving fell on Nov. 22 and the reporting period ended on Nov. 30. As a result, the company benefitted from sales that took place over the Thanksgiving weekend and holiday shopping that took place the following week that was reflected in November results. Target’s November results this year, while not expected to be good, will appear even worse since post-Thanksgiving holiday sales will be reflect in December results.

Although the monthly results will attract a lot of interest from the media this year, nuances of the retail reporting calendar tend to get lost in the shuffle and month-to-month shifts matter little since they even out over the course of a quarter. However, given all of the turmoil taking place in the economy and dire predictions of weak holiday sales, a lack of understanding of the quirky retail reporting calendar will lead to sales results that appear artificially weak.

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