Target raises starting pay for 2nd time in less than a year -

Target raises starting pay for 2nd time in less than a year

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(Mike Mozart / Flickr) (Mike Mozart / Flickr)

NEW YORK (AP/CNN) — Target is raising its minimum starting pay for workers for the second time in less than a year after seeing a bigger and better pool of candidates.

Target, which hiked starting pay to $11 an hour last fall, said all workers this spring will receive a minimum of $12 per hour.

CEO Brian Cornell said Tuesday that Target will offer workers $15 an hour by 2020. He says Target Corp. recorded a 30 percent increase in applicants when it boosted pay, and a better quality of applicant as well.

[Related: Target makes $550M move to take on Amazon]

Shoppers flocked to Target stores - and the company's website - during the holidays. But it wasn't enough to satisfy investors.

Shares of Target fell 3% in early trading, despite a 10% jump in fourth-quarter revenue and nearly 30% surge in digital sales from a year ago.

Investors were disappointed by the fact that Target's earnings were slightly below expectations. The company's outlook for the first quarter and full year were mostly in line with analysts' projections, though.

Target's stock has been red hot this year, surging 15% so far in 2018. So Wall Street was clearly banking on stronger results and guidance. Target already told investors in January that its sales during November and December were good.

And Target's sales growth shows that the company is finally back on track after several rough years.

Sales had been sluggish following a massive data breach in 2013, where the credit and debit card information of nearly 40 million customers were stolen. The stock missed out on much of the market's big rally during the past few years as a result.

Gregg Steinhafel, who had been CEO at the time of the hack, lost his job in 2014. But new CEO Brian Cornell, who had been an executive at Pepsi and former CEO of Walmart's Sam's Club unit, has re-energized the retailer.

Target has been busy launching new brands, such as the women's clothing line Universal Thread and home furnishing brands Heart & Hand with Magnolia and Opalhouse.

The company is clearly going after younger, social media savvy customers too. When it announced the Opalhouse launch last month, Target described it as an "eclectic aesthetic" that will help people "bring their Pinterest-worthy home design dreams to life."

Target has also made big strides with its e-commerce operations,and that's helped the company's sales as it tries to catch up to Walmart and Amazon in the online shopping race.

In fact, Target's online sales growth during the most recent quarter exceeded Walmart's, which slowed to 23% during the holidays.

Shares of Walmart are down nearly 10% this year too as investors have started to worry that Walmart is losing momentum after a flurry of online acquisitions.

But Target still trails Amazon, whose sales surged nearly 40% in the fourth quarter.

And Target's significant investments in its online shopping business are hurting profits in the short-term. The company said its margins in the fourth quarter were lower than a year ago due to "pressure from digital fulfillments costs."

Cornell conceded in the company's earnings announcement that Target has more to do before its turnaround is complete.

"While we have a lot left to accomplish, our progress in 2017 gives us confidence that we are making the right long-term investments to best position Target for profitable growth in a rapidly changing consumer and retail environment," he said.

Target has indeed made a nice rebound lately and Wall Street has rewarded it for that. So it can't afford to stumble now that it has a bull's-eye on its back.

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