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Tractor Supply brings 11.5% comp to market

NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Strong results in consumable categories, a little inflation and some Hurricane Irene related sales fueled an 11.5% same-store sales increase and led to a strong overall third-quarter financial performance at Tractor Supply Company.

“We generated double-digit increases in both sales and earnings on top of last year’s record results while improving gross margin and leveraging (selling, general and administrative expenses), said Jim Wright, Tractor Supply’s chairman and CEO. “This strong performance, which also included positive ticket and traffic, reflects the impact of our strategic initiatives and our ability to respond to our customers’ everyday rural lifestyle needs. Additionally, we executed exceptionally well and successfully managed through the inflationary environment.  We are delighted that we continue to experience broad-based strength across the business.”

While sales growth was primarily driven by the 11.5% comp increase, which came on top of a prior year increase of 5%, the company also opened 12 new stores during the quarter and ended the period with 1,054 stores in 44 states.

For the period ended Sept. 24, the company’s sales increased 17.9% to $978 billion and net income increased 43% to $42.7 million. Earnings per share of 58 cents were six cents better than analysts’ consensus estimate of 52 cents and 45% higher than the prior year third-quarter profit of 40 cents a share.

The earnings beat and momentum in the company’s business prompted it to raise its full-year sales and profit forecast. Guidance now calls for annual sales in the range of $4.15 billion to $4.17 billion compared with the company’s prior expectation of sales between $4.1 billion and $4.14 billion. Same-store sales for the year are now expected to increase between 6.5% and 7% compared with a prior expectation for an increase of 5% to 6%.

Tractor Supply is leveraging its sales growth to produce higher gross margins and reduced expenses as a percent of sales and now expects full year profits to range from $2.85 to $2.89 a share compared with a previous estimate of $2.75 to $2.82 a share.

“As we look ahead, we are well prepared for the upcoming fall, winter and holiday selling season and believe that our merchandising and marketing initiatives will allow us to gain market share,” Wright said. “With the right strategies, capital structure and team in place, we are confident in our outlook for 2011 and our ability to continue to build on our momentum for the long-term.”

There are few retailers who can make similar claims about their performance in the current economic climate and much of Tractor Supply’s success is due to its unique positioning. Stores are focused on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers in addition to the maintenance needs of those who enjoy the rural lifestyle, as well as tradesmen and small businesses. Stores are located in towns outlying major metropolitan markets and in rural communities where the offering of merchandise includes such things as equine, pet and small animal products, hardware, truck, towing and tool products, seasonal goods including lawn and garden items, power equipment, gifts and toys, maintenance products and work and recreational clothing and footwear.

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