NEW YORK -- Target reported a 26 percent drop in first-quarter profit as cool temperatures and financial pressures limited customers' appetite for spending.
The company, based in Minneapolis, also cut its annual profit outlook, sending its stock down in premarket trading.
Target Corp. (TGT) is the latest in a string of companies including rival Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT) that underscore how weather and other pressures on lower- to middle-income shoppers hurt business in the first couple months of the year.
Still, Target, whose sales growth has been uneven since the recession, remains confident in its strategies to attract shoppers.
Target has reached out to customers with two big growth initiatives. It has been offering a larger selection of food and also a program, started in 2010, that gives shoppers a 5 percent discount when they pay with Target-branded credit and debit cards.
At the same time, Target continues to team up with new designers for limited-time partnerships. Earlier this month, Target announced its latest designer collaboration, with Phillip Lim. The collection is due out in September.
Last year, Target expanded into urban markets using smaller versions of its big-box stores in Seattle, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Target also started to expand into Canada earlier this year, its first foray outside the U.S. The company is opening the stores in waves that should add up to about 125 stores at locations once owned by Canadian retailer Zellers by the end of the year.
"Target's first-quarter earnings were below expectations as a result of softer-than-expected sales, particularly in apparel and other seasonal and weather-sensitive categories," Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and CEO of Target, said in a statement. "While we are disappointed in our first-quarter performance, we remain confident in our strategy, and we continue to invest in initiatives, including Canada, our digital channels, and CityTarget, that will drive Target's long-term growth."
Target said it earned $498 million, or 77 cents a share, for the three months ended May 4. That compares with $697 million, or $1.04 a share, a year earlier.
Sales rose 1 percent to $16.71 billion.
Revenue at stores open at least a year slipped 0.6 percent. That's considered an important measure of retail performance because it strips out the effect of stores that open or close during the year.
Analysts had expected earnings of 95 cents a share on revenue of $16.82 billion.
Target expects that adjusted earnings a share will be in a range between $1.09 and $1.19 for the quarter.
For the full year, the company now expects $4.70 a share to $4.90 a share. That's down from its original guidance of $4.85 a share to $5.05 a share.
Analysts had forecast $1.11 a share for the second quarter and $4.63 a share for the year.
Target's stock dropped nearly 2 percent to $69.98 in premarket trading.