This means (price) war! Target to take prices down to bring back shoppers

Customers use Target shopping carts at a store in Chicago, Illinois.

Christopher Dilts | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Customers use Target shopping carts at a store in Chicago, Illinois.

Get ready for a pricing war.

Taking a page straight from Wal-Mart‘s playbook, Target on Tuesday said it will invest its own cash to ensure it is “clearly and competitively priced every day.”

The announcement came on the day Target missed expectations on earnings and sales and ahead of its meeting with the financial community, at which time the retailer plans to outline its strategies to revitalize the business. It also comes as Wal-Mart has been investing money to deliver lower prices to shoppers.

Target’s stock price sank 13 percent in premarket trading.

“While the transition to this new model will present headwinds to our sales and profit performance in the short term, we are confident that these changes will best position Target for continued success over the long term,” CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement.

Target has struggled to keep pace with Wal-Mart, which has been pouring money into its stores, employees and digital operations. While these initiatives have weighed on Wal-Mart’s bottom line, they’ve helped jump-start its revenue.

Meanwhile, Target has had trouble bringing shoppers into its stores, narrowly avoiding a third-straight quarter of lower traffic during the holiday period. Though several factors have weighed on Target’s performance, the company has listed a marketing strategy that didn’t adequately emphasize its prices as one culprit.

Target has grappled with finding a balance between communicating value and style, after skewing too heavily toward value after the recession. The company tried to reverse this trend during the holiday season, increasing the amount of marketing that spoke to value by about 20 percent.

“Target’s decision to absorb some hits to profits in 2017 due to price investments, and the acceleration of investments in physical assets and new brands, as well as online, are sensible long-term strategic moves to enhance its competitive position, and recognize the changing landscape of retail,” Moody’s analyst Charlie O’Shea told investors.

“Due to its historically balanced and disciplined financial policy, we believe Target has the wherewithal from a credit perspective to bite the short-term profitability bullet that will result from this strategy,” he continued.

Target on Tuesday reported sales and earnings that missed Wall Street’s expectations, as unplanned markdowns weighed on its margins. The retailer expects another challenging year in fiscal 2017, forecasting a low-single-digit decline in sales at its established stores.

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