The Ratings Game: Target’s holiday weakness in electronics drags down Best Buy’s stock

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Best Buy Co. Inc. shares are feeling the pinch from Target Corp.’s holiday sales announcement, which included soft sales in the consumer electronics category.

Target TGT, -7.34%   said comparable sales for electronics were down more than 6% in November and December. The home category, down about 1%, was another area of weakness.

Toys were about flat for the season, but Target Chief Executive Brian Cornell emphasized that even with a flat outcome, NPD Group data shows that the retailer gained share in the toy category.

These three categories are key for the holiday season and have a big impact on sales growth, Target said.

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“While we knew this season was going to be challenging, it was even more challenging than we expected,” Cornell said in a statement emailed to MarketWatch.

Overall, comparable sales growth was 1.4%, and Target expects the fourth-quarter to be in line with that November/December result. For the year, comparable sales are expected to grow more than 3%. The FactSet consensus is for 3.3% comparable sales growth for the quarter and 4% comparable sales growth for the year.

Target stock sank 6% in Wednesday trading after news of the result. The stock has rallied 72.6% over the past year. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF XRT, -0.42%   was up 4.2% and the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.40%   gained 26.1%.

Target attributed the overall comparable sales growth to traffic. Data from, a retail intelligence company, shows Target had a “minor decline” in visits of just over 1%. This is in line with the rest of the industry, due to the shorter holiday season, according to Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing for

However, on important days traffic was up at Target, with Black Friday traffic jumping 8%.

The holiday result was also a drag on a number of other retail stocks, including toy makers Hasbro Inc. HAS, -3.31%   (down 3.6%) and Mattel Inc. MAT, -6.10%   (down 5.1%).

“Target’s electronics business was down 6%, in part due to difficult comparisons from cycling the strength of Fortnite a year ago and the Switch before that,” wrote Instinet analysts led by Michael Baker. “We think investors will pressure Best Buy today.”

Best Buy BBY, -1.75%   stock slipped 2.3% on the news as well.

GlobalData Retail’s Neil Saunders calls the results in the electronics and home sector “particularly disappointing.” The electronics category was hurt by a lack of exciting new products. Having six fewer days to shop may have driven many consumers to focus on holiday-specific purchases rather than promotions on high-priced items.

“The good news is that despite the value it generates, electronics is a very low margin category, so deterioration in this segment will not be particularly damaging to profits,” Saunders said. “This is one of the reasons Target has preserved its earnings guidance for the quarter.”

Still, Instinet found reasons to be upbeat. Analysts there think “comps should rebound, as stronger non-seasonal categories take the lead post holiday.”

Target said holiday clothing comparable sales were up 5%, beauty was up 7% and food and beverage were up 3%.

See: Target is taking the market share in women’s clothing that Kohl’s is losing

CEO Cornell also highlighted the use of stores for fulfilling digital orders. He said more than 80% of online purchases got to customers through the company’s store network, with sales through same-day services – order pickup, Drive Up and Shipt – up more than 50%.

Also: As Amazon races to deliver in a day, Target drives digital customers to stores

Target joins a growing list of retailers reporting declines during the holiday season, including Macy’s Inc. M, -1.06%  , J.C. Penney Co. Inc. JCP, -0.44%  , and Kohl’s Corp. KSS, +0.17%