NEW YORK - Target is raising its minimum starting pay for workers for the second time in less than a year after seeing a bigger and better pool of candidates.

Target, which hiked starting pay to $11 an hour last fall, said all workers this spring will receive a minimum of $12 per hour.

CEO Brian Cornell said Tuesday that Target will offer workers $15 an hour by 2020. He says Target Corp. recorded a significant spike in applicants when it boosted pay, and a better quality of worker, too.

The chain also said Tuesday that it attracted more customers over the holidays by revamping some of its stores, upping its online delivery service and offering exclusive brands and collections.

That strategy appeared successful as sales rose 3.6% in the final three months of 2017 compared to the same period the year before. Its online sales were also higher, soaring 29% in the period, although that compared to growth of 34% in the previous year.

But while its performance showed improvement, Wall Street remained skeptical as earnings per share slipped and missed analysts' expectations.

"Our progress in 2017 gives us confidence that we are making the right long-term investments to best position Target for profitable growth in a rapidly changing consumer and retail environment,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement.

The retailer generated $1.1 billion in revenue during the full quarter, up 34.1% from the $821 million it reported the previous year.

Target made eight of a dozen new, exclusive brands available during the holiday season, including Hearth & Hand with Magnolia, a home-goods collaboration with Chip and Joanna Gaines, the popular hosts of the TV show Fixer Upper. And the retailer, known for its collaborations with designers like Victoria Beckham and Lily Pulitzer, is launching its newest limited collection, Hunter for Target, in April.