News Column

Target's Web Shoppers Focused on Discount, Not Breach

December 27, 2013

By Tom Webb, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

In the final days before Christmas, online shoppers seemed more curious about Target's 10 percent weekend discount than its massive security breach, a retail analytics firm said Thursday.

Experian Marketing Services monitors the search terms and traffic patterns of America's leading retailers, including during the explosive period last week after Target Corp. revealed that data from up to 40 million credit and debit cards used in stores had been stolen.

That security breach "did show up in our (search) data, but what overshadowed that was the discount," said Bill Tancer, Experian's general manager of global research. "There were far more (searches) for the discount than for any breach issues."

On the weekend before Christmas, the Minneapolis-based retailer offered a storewide 10 percent discount to shoppers at its U.S. stores. That was Target's way for apologizing to consumers for headaches caused by the theft of credit- and debit-card numbers, stolen between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

Experian data shows that Target's online arm finished the week before Christmas strong. Tancer said traffic to the site rose 2.7 percent in the final week before Christmas, in line with the overall the retail industry.

Then again, shoppers on Target's website weren't affected by the data breach. Only in-store customers saw their card data stolen, Target has said.

Meanwhile, Richfield-based electronics retailer Best Buy enjoyed a strong online performance during the holidays, Experian said, although it tapered off a bit in the final week.

"We did see a drop in the week-ending data ... of about 7 percent," Tancer said of visits to last week, compared to 2012 traffic. "But overall for the holiday season, we did see a strong increase."

Tancer attributed some of the gains to the launch of two game systems, the PS4 and the Xbox One, which he said ranked as the two most-searched-for products during the holidays.

"I think that was really good news for Best Buy, in that they got a lot of in-store sales and probably online orders," Tancer said.

Separately, MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse reported Thursday that holiday sales rose a healthy 3.5 percent over last year, led by jewelry and children's clothes.

But there were weak spots. Sales of men's and women's clothing was below last year's levels, a disappointing sign for shopping malls and clothing-heavy retailers such as Kohl's and Macy's.

And consumer electronics enjoyed a powerful start to the holiday shopping season, but evidently tapered off at the end, concluding the overall season mostly flat, MasterCard said.

MasterCard cited the shorter-than-usual period between Thanksgiving and Christmas as one factor that somewhat limited holiday sales.

On Thursday, Target shares rose 1.3 percent, or 77 cents, to close at $62.48. Best Buy shares rose 2 percent, or 82 cents a share, to close at $41.04.


Reports from Bloomberg News were used in this story. Tom Webb can be reached at 651-228-5428. Follow him at

Original headline: Target's Web shoppers focused on discount during week of data breach

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Source: (c)2013 Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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