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Target tries to reclaim cheap chic reputation

Retailer reimagines grocery area with more organic, natural and local

Target reported a nearly 52 per cent increase in its first-quarter profit on strong sales of fashion and baby items, evidence that its efforts to turn around its business are paying off.

The retailer, based in Minneapolis, also boosted the bottom end of its annual profit outlook.

Target Corp. is aiming to reinvent itself as a more nimble and innovative company and trying to reclaim its reputation as a cheap chic retailer under CEO Brian Cornell, who took the top job last year.

Under Cornell, the company ended its money-losing expansion into Canada–recently closing all 133 stores. It also has made other cost-cutting moves, including eliminating 1,700 positions in the United States.

The company said Wednesday its discontinued operations, primarily Target Canada, had a $16-million loss during the first quarter compared with a $153 million loss during the comparable period last year.

The company told investors in March that it plans to eliminate $2 billion in costs over the next two years and invest money into its online operations and other endeavours.

Target is also doubling down on a handful of areas like fashion, children's products and home furnishings. It's also reimagining its grocery area and wants to focus on organic, natural, gluten-free and locally produced food.

The moves come after Target lost its way during the Great Recession when it aggressively expanded into basic groceries. That helped drive traffic but diluted its cheap chic image. The company also was dragged down by its botched foray into Canada two years ago. And Target was behind other rivals in e-commerce services.

The company's first-quarter results show Target is seeing momentum.

Target said it earned $635 million, or 98 cents per share in the quarter ended May 2. That compares with $418 million, or 66 cents per share in the year-ago period.

The quarter including a three cent loss from discontinued operations, compared with a loss of 24 cents per share last year.

Revenue rose nearly 3 per cent to $17.1 billion. Revenue at store opened at least year a year, marking the third consecutive period of gains.

The results surpassed Wall Street estimates. The average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.03 per share. Zacks had forecast revenue of $17.08 billion.

The company said that it now expects earnings per share to be in the range of $4.50 to $4.65 for the fiscal year, up from the original forecast of $4.45 to $4.65 per share. Analysts were expecting $4.56 per share for the year, according to FactSet.

Target's stock rose a little more than 1 per cent, or $1.08, to $79 in premarket trading Wednesday.

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