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Target OKs $5 billion share repurchase authorization

BY Allison Cerra

MINNEAPOLIS — Target’s board of directors has approved a new $5 billion share repurchase program, which will be implemented upon the completion of the company’s current $10 billion program.

Target said while it expects to complete its current program early this year, it expects to complete the new $5 billion authorization in the next two to three years, saying the program "represents an opportunity to apply excess cash flow to what [the company believes] will be an attractive long-term investment."

“Our plans envision continued generation of much more cash than we believe is appropriate to invest in our core businesses,” Target EVP and CFO Doug Scovanner said. “We’re committed to maintaining Target’s long history of returning cash to shareholders through both dividends and share repurchase, and this new authorization will allow for seamless execution of share repurchase beyond completion of the current program.”

In related news, the board also declared a quarterly dividend of 30 cents per common share — its 178th consecutive dividend paid since October 1967 — which is payable March 10 to shareholders of record at the close of business Feb. 15.

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December retail sales reach $400 billion mark

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — Despite barely rising in December, retail sales hit a record for the year, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday.

U.S. retail and food services sales for the month, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, increased 0.1% to $400.6 billion from the previous month and 6.5% above December 2010. Adjusted retail sales were virtually unchanged.

Looking across retail categories, the Census Bureau reported that grocery store sales saw a decline in December, decreasing from $46.5 billion to $46.4 billion. Health and personal care stores rose from $23.3 billion to $23.1 billion. Retail sales for drug stores and pharmacies were not recorded; however, sales were virtually flat from October to November ($19.3 billion to $19.26 billion).

For the year, total retail sales were up 7.7% to $4.7 trillion, while sales excluding motor vehicles and parts totaled nearly $3.9 trillion, 7.3% above 2010.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation said that holiday sales rose 4.1% to $471.5 billion, beating NRF’s projection of 3.8%.

"The right mix of strong promotions, lean inventories and an emphasis on value put retailers in the perfect position to end the year on a high note," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “A better-than-expected holiday season is welcome news for an economic recovery that continues to be sluggish, and demonstrates retail’s powerful role as an engine of growth.”

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Value still resonates at 99 Cents Only

BY Gail Hoffer

CITY OF COMMERCE, Calif. — Sales at 99 Cents Only Stores rose 10.6% to $403.9 million for the third quarter of fiscal 2012 over sales of $365.4 milllion for the same quarter last year.

The company’s overall same-store sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2012 increased 8.5%. The number of same-store-sales transactions increased 5.6% and the average transaction size increased to $9.86 from $9.59.

99 Cents Only CEO Eric Schiffer said, "We are pleased to report that we achieved 8.5% same-store sales growth in the third quarter, which was above our expected range of mid-single-digit comparable sales."

During the third quarter of fiscal 2012, the company opened one store in California, two in Arizona and one in Texas. The gross and saleable retail square footage at the end of the third quarter were 6.19 million and 4.87 million, respectively. This represents an increase of 4% and 4.1% of gross and saleable square footage, respectively, based on 292 stores.

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