Tractor Supply Co. will open its 1,700th store on Saturday in Mocksville, NC. The company is celebrating with several grand opening festivities, including pet adoption with the Davie County Humane Society, an antique trailer display with the Piedmont Antique Power Association, driving demos with power mower company Cub Cadet and an introduction to the Davie County Future Farmers of America, according to a company press release.
With the Mocksville location, Tractor Supply now runs 1,700 stores in 49 states in addition to the e-commerce site and has 28,000 employees nationwide. The company opened 101 new flagship stores last year and plans 80 more in 2018, and also runs pet supply retailer Petsense, (centered in small and mid-size towns), with 168 stores in 26 states and 20 new locations opening this year. The company is also working on site selections for 2019 and 2020, executives said in January, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.
Opening stores underpins Tractor Supply’s strategy to gain market share, executives said in January, when they reported record net annual sales of $7.26 billion. The company saw same-store sales rise 4% in the fourth quarter, driven by strength across all geographic regions and merchandise categories, and 2.7% for the year, with transaction count and average ticket both increasing in the quarter and full year.
The 80-year-old Tractor Supply began as a tractor parts catalog but now claims to be the largest retailer of rural lifestyle products. And while brick-and-mortar is a key element of its growth strategy, the company has also worked to meet customers' needs online and off. In fact the retailer ranked first in customer web experience, according to a Retail Customer Experience report last year from customer experience solutions firm ForeSee, beating, in order, Nordstrom, Costco and Amazon.
The retailer is one of a host of what retail analyst Nick Egelanian, president of SiteWorks International, calls "invisible brick and mortar retailers that are an not only healthy and growing, but essential to the U.S. retail supply chain."
Egelanian believes the company, founded in North Dakota, but now headquartered in Nashville, to be one of the more interesting retail concepts in America. "While its name implies that it is a tractor parts retailer, it actually is a far more diversified company selling pet and livestock products, hardware, lawn and garden products and clothing along with toys and gifts," he told Retail Dive in an email. Agricultural products, in fact, represent just 5% of its sales, according to Egelanian.
Executives have outlined 2018 as a year of investment and growth. Last year, the company broke ground on a new distribution center in Frankfort, NY to support expansion in the Northeast, rolled out a loyalty program across all channels, expanded buy online pickup in store, and has been testing technology like mobile checkout and "Stockyard," which enables store associates to locate hard-to-find inventory online.
In his statement on Tuesday, CEO Greg Sandfort called the opening of the Mocksville store an important milestone. "[W]e are combining our physical and digital assets into one seamless shopping experience that allows our customers to engage with us anytime, anywhere and any way they choose," he said. "Whether it be in convenient store locations or online, each day we strive to provide our customers with relevant products and legendary service to support their lifestyle."
In an era when so many retailers are shuttering stores, devastating local communities and jangling the nerves of retail executives everywhere, Tractor Supply, along with many in the dollar store and off-price markets, are expanding their footprints. "Whether it is Ace Hardware with 5,000 stores, Dollar General with over 13,000 stores or Tractor Supply Company with over 1,700 stores, brick and mortar stores like these represent the backbone of the retail supply chain in rural markets in America, and we see little chance that this will change in the future," Egelanian said.
Brick and mortar is extremely valuable to the enterprise, Tractor Supply President and Chief Marketing Officer Steve Barbarick told analysts in January, and suggested that digital efforts are an extension of its stores. "The vast majority of what we do today is picked up in store, so whether it be shipped to store or picked up in store, our customers still like to come and engage with us in the four walls, but a few would like the convenience of having it shipped to them."