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While Target is doubling down on stores, the Minneapolis-based retailer also has decided to pull the plug on a dozen underperforming stores.

The company on Monday began notifying store employees at the 12 affected stores, which are slated to close on Feb. 3. In the Twin Cities metro area, the store in Hastings is being closed. Fergus Falls in western Minnesota also is on the list.

"It's not a decision we make lightly," said Kristy Welker, a Target spokeswoman. "We have a really rigorous process in place in evaluating the performance of a store in deciding when to close or relocate a store. We close a store after seeing several years of decreasing profitability."

While many big retailers such as Macy's, J.C. Penney and Sears have been closing many stores to retool their business for the digital age, Target has been closing a handful a year while focusing on opening new smaller-format stores in urban and dense suburban areas. It has accelerated its pace of store openings to 32 new stores this year and 35 new locations planned for next year.

Target also has been investing heavily in refreshing hundreds of stores. CEO Brian Cornell said last month that the company has seen such strong results from the store remodels it has completed so far that it will retouch more stores than initially planned. It now plans to refurbish 1,000 of its 1,800 stores by 2020.

While most of the growth in retail is coming from online sales, Target has been increasingly using its stores as distribution centers either via in-store pickup or shipping items to customers' doorsteps.

The other stores Target is closing in February include: Harper Woods, Mich. (Eastland): Hutchinson, Kan.; Benton Harbor, Mich.; Macon, Ga.; Slidell, La.; Lauderhill, Fla.; Matteson, Ill.; Romeoville, Ill.; Baltimore (West); and San Antonio (Far East).

For many of the smaller towns and cities on the list, the news came as a blow.

"It's devastating news for the community," Mayor Ben Schierer told the Fergus Falls Daily Journal. The city of about 13,000 people in western Minnesota also lost a Kmart in recent years, and the building that once housed it is still vacant.

In Hutchinson, Kan., some folks are planning to hold a candlelight vigil on the eve of the store's closing to "mourn the loss of our beloved Target," according to a Facebook page set up to organize the gathering. The event, the Facebook page said, is "BYOC" — "Bring your own candles."

Target closed five stores in its last fiscal year and 13 the year before that.

Kavita Kumar • 612-673-4113