Tractor Supply Company, one of the largest rural lifestyle retailers in the US, provided a business update in light of the dynamic situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a preliminary financial update for the first quarter 2020.
For the first quarter of 2020, net sales increased by 7.5 percent to $1.96 billion from $1.82 billion in the first quarter of 2019. Comparable store sales increased 4.3 percent compared to a 5 percent increase in the prior year’s first quarter. Starting in early March, the company benefited from strong sales as consumers stocked up on core everyday consumable, usable and edible merchandise categories related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This stock up activity more than offset the decline in cold-weather seasonal categories sales in January and February resulting from generally warmer weather conditions. For the March period, overall comparable store sales increased 12 percent above the prior year with key consumable categories up more than 20 percent, offset by declines in discretionary categories such as clothing, footwear, toys and gift items. The company’s e-commerce business also experienced significant growth in March.
As a result of the above factors, the company expects diluted earnings per share for the first quarter to be between $0.69 and $0.71.
“During these unprecedented times, I am incredibly proud of how the Tractor Supply team has responded to take care of each other and our customers,” said Hal Lawton, Tractor Supply’s President and CEO. “As an essential, needs-based retailer, Tractor Supply is committed to supporting our customers’ ability to take care of their families, property and animals. As we progressed through the first quarter, our comparable store sales growth tracked in line with our expectations. Beginning in early March as the COVID-19 crisis evolved, we saw a significant increase in our comparable store sales with a focus in our consumable categories such as companion animal food, livestock feed and heating fuel and other core categories like agricultural fencing, safes, generators and sustainable living.”
Lawton continued, “With the additional safety measures and acceleration of initiatives like contactless curbside delivery and delivery from store, we are moving fast to take proactive steps to protect the safety of our team members and customers. We are adapting to our customers’ changing needs, as they rely on us to be the dependable supplier to provide their everyday essentials. The culture and purpose-driven nature of Tractor Supply have served us well in responding at this critical time. The health and safety of our team members and customers will continue to be of the utmost priority for us. Looking beyond the current crisis, we are confident that we will emerge stronger.”
Yesterday, the company issued a press release detailing additional safety initiatives and accelerated investments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The release can be found at IR.TractorSupply.com/Newsroom.
Fiscal 2020 Outlook and Liquidity
“While the second quarter comparable store sales growth has started out strong as Tractor Supply’s customers move from stock up purchases to more seasonally relevant categories, there is a significant degree of uncertainty going forward,” said Kurt Barton, Tractor Supply’s Chief Financial Officer. “As a result, we are withdrawing our fiscal 2020 guidance. We believe our resilient business model, which has been proven over time, and our strong financial position will continue to serve us well in the future.”
The uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic include, but are not limited to: how macroeconomic factors evolve including unemployment rates; the impact of the crisis on consumer shopping patterns; the timing of when consumer stimulus checks arrive; degree of quarantine measures that may still occur; uncertainty in the economy in the second half of 2020; and the incremental costs of doing business as an essential, needs-based retailer in the current environment. For the second quarter of 2020, the net incremental costs of doing business as an essential retailer are currently anticipated to be in the range of $30 million to $50 million.
All of the company’s stores and e-commerce operations are open and plan to remain open. As of March 28 , the company had more than $450 million in cash and cash equivalents and approximately $165 million in available liquidity through existing credit facilities. While Tractor Supply will continue to invest in its business and team members, the company has suspended its share repurchase activity effective March 12 .
Barton continued, “At Tractor Supply, we have a strong balance sheet with significant financial flexibility and cash flow. Nevertheless, we are taking steps to further enhance the company’s financial flexibility. We are reprioritizing capital expenditures and deferring certain investments while accelerating investments in some of the key strategic initiatives to respond to COVID-19, such as increased delivery options, additional mobile point of sale technology and contactless curbside delivery. While we are adapting to the current operating environment, we continue to invest in our long-term growth opportunities.”
Upcoming Investor Events
In addition, Tractor Supply announced the following investor events:
• First Quarter 2020 Earnings Conference Call on Thursday, April 23 at 9 a.m. CT / 10 a.m. ET, hosted by Hal Lawton, President and Chief Executive Officer and Kurt Barton, Executive Vice President – Chief Financial Officer. The company’s first quarter 2020 earnings news release will be issued before the market opens that morning. This event will be webcast live at IR.TractorSupply.com.
• 2020 Annual Shareholder Meeting on Thursday, May 7 at 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET. Due to the public health impact relating to COVID-19 and to protect the health and well-being of its shareholders, team members and directors, the company’s Annual Shareholder Meeting will be held virtually. The meeting will be conducted via a live webcast where shareholders of record will be able to vote electronically and submit questions during the meeting. Shareholders of record should refer to the company’s definitive proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on how to access the meeting, which is available on the company’s website under “SEC Filings”. The public will also be able to listen without the option to vote through a link on the company’s website at IR.TractorSupply.com.
Please allow extra time prior to the events to visit the site and download the streaming media software required to listen to the webcasts.
A replay of the first quarter earnings call webcast will be available at IR.TractorSupply.com shortly after the conference call concludes.