US big-box retailer Target posted earnings that actually weren’t as bad as Wall Street feared. Still, profits fell 46% and sales slipped 5.3%. Perhaps most striking was the 5.5% decline in customer transactions during Target’s fiscal fourth quarter compared with the previous quarter. That shows how traffic at Target tanked after news that hackers stole data from 40 million credit and debit cards used at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. (Because of its atypical reporting calendar, Target’s fiscal fourth quarter covers November 2013 through January 2014.)
The fall in transaction volume likely understates the impact of the data breach somewhat. On Target’s post-earnings conference call, one analyst asked whether traffic after the breach was actually down by 7%-8%. A Target executive acknowledged that was “pretty accurate,” though he stressed that traffic had continued to “firm up,” early in 2014.