Minneapolis-based Target says sales at stores open at least one year rose 3.1 percent in January, as shoppers bought holiday clearance merchandise.
The same-store sales figure is considered a key indicator of a retailer's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.
Sales were better than Wall Street expected. But retail consultant Howard Davidowitz said Target was making up for a lackluster holiday performance by running sales on seasonal merchandise.
"January is an important month, because you got to get rid of everything in preparation for spring merchandise, and Target did that. To that extent, it's good," Davidowitz said.
Target's total sales for the five weeks ending Feb. 2 were $6 billion, up nearly 30 percent from a year ago. But the company says customers continue to shop cautiously due to the slow economic recovery and new financial pressures, such as the recent payroll tax increase.