Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Officer at Target
Thanks, Brian, and good morning, everyone. Just a few months ago, at our Financial Community Meeting, my presentation outlined our strategic vision of the company. While I covered many facets of our strategy that day, where I started then is where I want to start again today, with our guests. We frequently get questions about how our guests are feeling given the current economic environment, how their shopping habits are evolving and what's top of mind for them? Our guest base encompasses every slice of the American population given that we serve nearly 20 million guests on average each and every week. And the breadth of their individual decisions as they navigate a rapidly changing macro environment is just as broad, making the answers to those questions that much more complex.
A guest might be telling us that they're worried about inflation and rising gas prices, but they're also looking to splurge on new shoes or some accent pillows for their home. Another guest remains worried about COVID, but they're still planning to resume travel and looking forward to summer outings like little league games and barbecues with friends. Many guests are sharing their uncertainty of the overall state of the economy, but are feeling more positive about their personal finances. With so much on their minds and a wide array of wants and needs, it has never been more important for Target to be flexible and provide ease, safety, inspiration and solutions for all of our guests.
In the first quarter, we invested in delivering a great guest experience to build and maintain the trust and love for the Target brand. And those decisions came with substantial costs. I'll share more on this shortly.
Our first quarter results reinforce the power of our multi-category portfolio, which allows us to lean into those ever-changing wants and needs. More and more, we are seeing our guests increasing mobility and love of newness play out in their Target purchases as baskets shift more toward experiences and going-out categories. This includes notable strength in fashion forward apparel, prepaid cards, toys and travel. While apparel basics moderated in the quarter, trend-based apparel accelerated meaningfully as increasingly, people are returning to the office or dining out with friends. We're also seeing robust growth in beauty, driven by particular strength in going-out categories like sunscreen, color cosmetics and fragrance. Luggage grew more than 50% as the world continues to reopen, and we reunite with the places and people we have missed visiting.
And our own brand portfolio continues to grow faster than total sales, as it has quarter-after-quarter for years now. We continuously benefit from the growing guest affinity for our own brands, which are designed to drive trips to Target, not simply to provide another option when guests are already in a store. Our guests appreciate the value, quality and great design they have come to expect and love from Target owned brands, even as they continue to appreciate our national brand options and partnerships as well.
As Brian outlined, our team delivered just over 3% in comparable sales growth in the first quarter, in line with expectations, reflecting strong traffic and unit share gains. First quarter growth was strongest in frequently purchased categories, including food and beverage, beauty and essentials. Food & Beverage, which delivered low double-digit growth this quarter was strong across the entire assortment. Over the last three years, first quarter Food & Beverage sales have increased by nearly $1.8 billion, accounting for nearly one quarter of our total sales growth over that time. Market share gains in this category are being driven by unit share growth, most notably in our own brand offerings, as more and more guests turn to Good & Gather and Favorite Day for their meal solutions.
Beauty has been one of our fastest-growing categories for years now and grew again in the low double-digits in Q1 as guests spend more time outside of the home and want to look and feel their best. Since the first quarter of 2019, Beauty sales have expanded by more than 45%. The mass majority of which occurred before our rollout of the Ulta Beauty at Target experience, evidence that there is still plenty of room for growth in this category. Essentials grew in the high single-digits in Q1, having added well over $1 billion in first quarter sales over the last three years. Notably, nearly $0.5 billion of that growth happened after 2020 when we saw explosive demand for categories like household paper, over-the-counter and cleaning supplies.
Across our other core categories: Apparel, Home and Hardlines, we saw small declines in comparable sales this quarter. In Apparel, despite unfavorable weather across most of the country, comp sales remained nearly flat to last year, having grown more than 60% in the first quarter a year ago and nearly $1 billion since the first quarter of 2019.
In Home, even after a small pullback in Q1 comps, sales remain more than 40% higher than the first quarter of 2019, equating to more than $1.2 billion in growth over that time. Our seasonal categories continue to excel as our guests turn to Target for all of their holiday and celebratory solutions, leading to all-time records in the recent Valentine's Day and Easter seasons. And notably, guests are finding new ways to enjoy and celebrate the spaces they've invested in over the past few years. Having already renovated their homes with purchases in categories like furniture and small appliances, guests are now refreshing their homes with smaller touches, driving demand in categories like decor, candles and seasonal assortments, further evidence, not just of the strength in our multi-category portfolio, but the breadth of what we offer within categories as well.
Hardlines saw a slight pullback in Q1, but has grown more than $1.3 billion since the first quarter of 2019. Within Hardlines, guests have been refocusing their spending away from electronics like TVs and into experiences for both kids and adults, which led to strength in our toys, travel and prepaid card categories.
As Brian mentioned, first quarter gross margin performance was well below our expectations. This was driven by a number of factors. The most impactful of which was softer than expected sales in several categories, resulting in too much inventory in those areas. As we developed our plans for the quarter, our task was to anticipate how spending would change under circumstances no one had ever seen before given that we were about to compare over two years of historically high federal stimulus payments. As such, we relied on numerous forecasts and estimate, both internal and external, to help determine our view for the quarter. Despite this careful approach, the mix of actual demand materialized differently than we had anticipated.
In addition, as supply grew and demand shifted away from bigger, bulkier products like furniture, TVs and more, we needed to make difficult trade-off decisions. We could keep this product knowing would sell over time or we can make room for fast-growing categories like food beverage, beauty, and personal care and household essentials. To preserve the quality of on-shelf presentations and support the guest experience, we chose the latter, leading to incremental markdowns that reduced our gross margin. While these were difficult decisions, we believe they'll pay off in the long-term, given that building long-term loyalty remains our top priority.
As we look ahead, we'll continue to do all we can to support our guests, providing them great value and unbeatable selection of necessities and affordable luxuries, and a shopping experience that sparks a smile and provides a temporary escape. The second quarter offers many opportunities for our team to help all families discover the joy of everyday life. And this summer's assortment features some of our most inclusive offerings yet. First, in May, we are celebrating Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by highlighting Asian founders and creators, amplifying their voices with stories of how their unique cultures influence the creation of their products and businesses. With June right around the corner, we're excited to honor our LGBTQ+ community as we celebrate Pride Month. This uplifting and always relevant assortment offers bold product, inclusive marketing and everyday affirmation that authentically represents and celebrates community and culture. And of course, we just finished celebrating mom in May and have plenty of options to honor dads in June, along with many other opportunities to celebrate the joys of summer.
And speaking of joy, we're ecstatic about our recently announced expanded partnership with actress, author and social media phenomenon, Tabitha Brown, a beacon of positivity, inspiration and joy. Having collaborated with her on social media for years, we're excited to grow our partnership with Tabitha and feature four limited time-only collections set to launch over the next year. Starting with an exclusive apparel and accessories line of more than 75 items this June that are sure to lift both style and spirit.
Before I pass things over to John, I want to thank our teams across stores, distribution centers and headquarters locations all around the globe for their unwavering leadership and service to our guests and to each other. Without them, we would not be able to continue growing our business and serving our guests each and every day. Despite the volatility and rapid shifts in consumer demand, the macro environment and the global supply chain, our business remains strong. And we're confident in both our long-term strategy and our team's ability to navigate through this dynamic period. We continue to focus on serving our guests in all that we do through our ability to provide relevance and joy in our assortment, the delivery of a positive one-of-a-kind inspiring guest experience and by building lasting deepened affinity over time. We're lucky to have the best team in retail to make all of this come to life. And I look forward to all we will do together in the second quarter and beyond.
With that, I'll pass things over to John.