By Amrita Jayakumar

The Washington Post

It should come as no surprise that Target’s sales were hit by the December data breach that affected millions. But the number of people visiting its stores and website fell to the lowest level in three years, according to a recent report.

Only 33 percent of U.S. households shopped at Target in January, a decrease of 22 percent from the same time last year, according to a survey by Kantar Retail, a consulting group. The shoppers who stayed away the most included Gen Xers — its core demographic — and lower-income, infrequent shoppers, who visit the store less but make up a large part of its customer base.

But though the data breach may have spooked Target customers, the traffic decline is part of a long-term trend, said Amy Koo, senior analyst at Kantar Retail and a co-author of the report.

Since the recession, Target has focused on serving its most-loyal customers, Koo said, sometimes at the expense of the lower-income customer base. Target’s partnerships with luxury brands and designers, such as the Target + Neiman Marcus holiday collection, were a reflection of that effort, she said.

“But over the last year, they’ve realized that that’s not enough,” Koo said.