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VOL. 124 | NO. 162 | Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Retailers' Results Top Estimates; Wariness Remains

ANNE D'INNOCENZIO | AP Retail Writer

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NEW YORK (AP) - Target Corp. and Home Depot Inc. on Tuesday posted lower profits that still topped Wall Street expectations, but economic worries are likely to keep shoppers tight-fisted in the months ahead, executives predicted.

The results at two other retailers strongly reflected the recession's effects. Discounter TJX Cos., which operates T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods stores, saw profit rise 31 percent. And luxury merchant Saks Inc. saw its loss widen, though still coming in smaller than analysts feared because of a series of cost-cutting moves.

During the recession, discounters have benefited from consumer cutbacks, while luxury retailers have seen demand evaporate.

Home Depot reported that profit fell 7 percent, as the nation's biggest home improvement retailer shuttered its Expo business and continued to be pinched by the recession.

Still, the Atlanta-based company's adjusted results beat Wall Street's expectations, and it lifted its guidance for full-year earnings from continuing operations.

Home Depot earned $1.12 billion, or 66 cents per share, for the period. That's down from $1.2 billion, or 71 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding Expo-related charges, profit was 67 cents per share, topping analysts' forecasts for 59 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters. Home Depot had announced in January that it planned to close its 34 Expo Design Centers.

Revenue dropped 9 percent to $19.07 billion from $21 billion.

Minneapolis-based Target's earnings were helped by higher profit margins on the items it sold and a stabilizing credit-card business.

Target earned $594 million, or 79 cents per share, in the three-month period ended Aug. 1. That compares with $634 million, or 82 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Total revenue fell 2.6 percent to $15.07 billion. Analysts projected a profit of 66 cents per share on revenues of $15.1 million.

"Second-quarter earnings were stronger than expected due to very strong operating margin in our retail segment and credit card segment performance in line with expectations," Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement.

He added that the company is focused on initiatives to drive customer traffic and sales.

Profit from the credit card business dropped to $63 million for the quarter from $74 million in the year-ago period. Net write-offs in the quarter were $304 million, in line with company expectations.

Target sold 47 percent of its credit card receivables to JPMorgan Chase in May 2008.

Discounters, particularly Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have benefited from consumers switching to cheaper stores and focusing on necessities. But at Target, where more than 40 percent of revenue comes from nonessentials like funky jeans and bedspreads, the cheap-chic formula that once was its strength has became a drag as shoppers focus on basics.

A beneficiary of that was TJX, whose fiscal second-quarter profit rose 31 percent to $261.6 million, or 61 cents per share. The results beat Wall Street's expectations by 1 cent per share.

Sales for the period ended Aug. 1 rose 4 percent to $4.75 billion, meeting analysts' estimates. Consolidated same-store sales increased 4 percent.

CEO Carol Meyrowitz said in a news release the company's stores are seeing increased customer traffic and it is seeing strength across its businesses.

Saks said it lost $54.5 million, or 39 cents per share, in the three months that ended Aug. 1. That compares with a loss of $32.7 million, or 24 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts had forecast a loss of 52 cents per share on revenue of $563 million.

Revenue fell 15 percent to $561.7 million. Same-store sales also fell 15 percent during the quarter.

Luxury retailers like Saks have been especially hurt by the recession, as even shoppers with money to spend are cutting back on splurges.

______

AP Retail Writers Ashley M. Heher in Chicago, Mae Anderson in New York, Emily Fredrix in Milwaukee, and Michelle Chapman in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 67 67 16,128
MORTGAGES 81 81 18,637
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 2 2 2,463
BUILDING PERMITS 213 213 33,603
BANKRUPTCIES 52 52 10,366
BUSINESS LICENSES 17 17 5,320
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 29 29 6,302
MARRIAGE LICENSES 33 33 3,544