Thursday, General merchandise and food discount retailer Target Corp. (TGT) reported a 6.3% drop in comparable-store sales for March, with 2.3% slide in net retail sales, mainly reflecting the adverse impact of the move of pre-Easter holiday shopping days.

The Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company's comparable-store sales for the five weeks ended April 4, 2009 declined 6.3%, compared to a 4.4% drop in the previous year. For March, Target was expecting same-store sales to decline in high-single digits, with continuing reflection of recent sales trends and volatility, as well as the impact of the shift of Easter from March 2008 into April this year.

Net retail sales for the period were $5.543 billion, down 2.3% from $5.676 billion for the five weeks ended April 5, 2008.

Commenting on the results, Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Target, said, March sales were modestly better than our planned range, and reflected the adverse impact of the move of pre-Easter holiday shopping days from March last year into April this year. Our guests continue to be cautious, but we have begun to see encouraging signs in the operating results of both of our business segments.

In February, the company reported a 4.1% decline in comparable-store sales, as customers continued to refrain from buying non-essentials such as apparel and home products amid a weak economy. However, net retail sales for February remained flat at $4.37 billion. In January, comparable-store sales declined 3.3%, while net retail sales increased 0.8% to $4.14 billion.

Among other retailers, Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) Thursday posted a 5% decline in its March comparable-store sales, with 2% drop in US and 13% overseas, hurt by gasoline deflation and foreign exchange. Costco's net sales for five weeks ended April 5, 2009 fell 3% to $6.39 billion from $6.57 billion in the previous year.

However, retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) reported a 1.4% increase in total U.S. comparable-store sales for March without fuel and 0.7% growth with fuel. Walmart U.S. comparable-store sales increased 0.6% both with and without fuel. Sam's Club comparable-store sales rose 6.2% without fuel and increased 1.3% with fuel.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart's net sales for March declined 1.9% to $36.206 billion from $36.914 billion in the comparable period last year. Walmart U.S. net sales for the month rose 2.6% to $23.75 billion, while International net sales fell 14.8% to $8.074 billion.

For the year-to-date period, Target's comparable store sales declined 5.3%, compared to a decline of 2.3% a year ago. Total net retail sales for the period were $9.915 billion, down 1.3% from previous year. The company currently operates 1,699 Target stores in 49 states.

Looking ahead, Target now expects its April reported comparable-store sales results to be essentially flat to last year, in light of the Easter shift and recent trends.

While announcing the February results, the company had noted that it expects April same-store sales to be relatively flat, and that, for the two months combined, its expectations centered around a mid single-digit decline in comparable-store sales.

Peer Wal-Mart said it expects total U.S. comps for the 13 weeks through May 1 to be around the high end of its previously forecasted range of 1% to 3%.

TGT is currently trading at $39.74, up $2.16 or 5.74% in the pre-market activity. In the past 52 weeks, the shares have been trading in a range of $25.00 - $59.55.

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