Target grocery aisles
During the recent quarter, Target's food sales growth outpaced its overall sales growth over the prior year.

MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp.’s recent efforts to reinvigorate its food business appear to be working. During the recent quarter, the Minneapolis retailer’s food sales growth outpaced its overall sales growth over the prior year. Net earnings for the third quarter ended Oct. 31 advanced 56% to $549 million, equal to 88c per share on the common stock, up from year-ago earnings of $352 million, or 55c per share, the year before. Sales increased 2.1% to $17,613 million from $17,254 million.

Brian Cornell, Target
Brian Cornell, chairman and c.e.o. of Target

“While we’re encouraged with the recent acceleration in food sales, we are still in the very early stages of our work to provide a unique assortment of fresh, local and healthy items to our guests,” said Brian Cornell, chairman and chief executive officer, during a Nov. 18 earnings call with financial analysts.

The addition of more natural, organic and local food and beverage items has boosted performance in the category. In the yogurt section, Target’s introduction of more premium and better-for-you options led to a high-single-digit increase in sales for the quarter, Mr. Cornell said.

“Looking forward, we’ll continue to enhance our food assortment with a focus on wellness, local relevance and seasonally appropriate items,” Mr. Cornell said.

Target also will soon begin testing changes to food shopping environments in remodeled stores in Los Angeles. The company is testing a localized assortment of food and beverages in the Chicago market, and Mr. Cornell said the company is pleased with the results.

“Before we start making fixture changes and decor changes, it has to start with the right assortment and making sure we have the items, the brands, our guest is looking for when they shop food at Target,” he said. “So the acceleration you’re seeing right now is driven by section by section getting the assortment right, bringing more appealing items to our guests, adding more natural, organic, gluten-free items that are on trend to those categories…

“So while we are not shouting about it, we’re making steady progress in food.”