Target Corp. said its first-quarter adjusted profit will likely dip slightly below its forecast because of weaker-than-expected store sales, particularly for seasonal and weather-sensitive goods.

The Minneapolis-based discount retailer originally predicted adjusted profits would be $1.10 to $1.20 per share for the February through April period, excluding one-time items. Analysts expect earnings of 96 cents per share.

Target said Tuesday that it now expects adjusted quarterly earnings will be slightly below its lowest estimate of $1.10 a share. Full earnings will be "approximately 28 cents lower than adjusted earnings," officials said. Analysts believe spring clothing on Target's racks probably proved a hard sell during the quarter, as cold temperatures and late snowfalls clung to pockets of the country.

Target expects that revenue for stores open at least a year will be flat for the quarter. Same-store sales comparisons are considered a key retail metric, and the hope is that sales would rise — not fall or flatten.

Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group in New York, said cool weather has taken its toll on retailers nationwide.

"The first quarter of last year was the best weather for Target and the other retailers in at least 15 to 20 years. This year, the first quarter was the worst first quarter across the country in well over a decade," Flickinger said. In addition, consumers faced a tax hike effective Jan. 1, a new $1 trillion high in student loan debt, and the fifth year of decline in disposable income. Added together and you have a recipe for flat retail sales, he said.

Whatever the reason, shareholders sent Target's stock tumbling Tuesday. The stock fell $1.02 a share in early trading before ending the day down just 10 cents a share at $68.38.

While quarterly earnings will dip during the quarter, Target officials kept their guidance for the full fiscal 2013. Full-year earnings are still expected to reach $4.85 to $5.05 per share. Wall Street expects $4.55 per share.

Target, which has 1,808 stores, noted that several factors affected earnings for the quarter including losses stemming from the early retirement of debt, spending related to its Canadian expansion, and gains from the sale of its consumer credit card receivables to TD Bank Group.

Flickinger predicted that Target's woes will be temporary. Its investments to expand into Canada and convert the last of its U.S. stores into grocery and clothing hubs should turn things around for Target, he said.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725