How Tractor Supply Beat the Recession

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Brentwood, TN.-based Tractor Supply sells everything from tools to toys. The giant retail chain dominates the home improvement, agriculture, lawn and garden market. What makes Tractor Supply so newsworthy is that in a time when most retailers have suffered sales declines during this recession, their sales have gone up 150 percent. They just keep opening more stores—now 111 in 44 states—and recently announced their best ever sales of $1 billion.

So what’s the secret to Tractor Supply's recession proof sales? How do they just keep selling everything from chickens to charcoal? Their sales slogans provide a hint: “The Stuff You Need Out Here” and “Repair Don’t Replace.”

The company’s can-do attitude was recently underscored in a corporate sales meeting where Jim Wright, Tractor Supply’s CEO exclaimed, “We're gonna ignore the recession.” And so it has. Tractor Supply has seen a huge boost in same-store sales in the third quarter of 2012. Strong performance in core consumables, usable and edible products, mainly for pet food and animal feed helped generate a 2.9% increase in same-store sales on top of an 11.5% rise in the same quarter of the previous-year.

Wright took over the farm-store operator in 2004 and has overseen a 420 percent stock rise. He says that part of his job is to nurture the deep-rooted values that pervade every corner of the farm and ranch supplies' retailer. "The culture of a company is like the sand on a beach," said Wright. "Wind and water are always eroding it. It's the job of leadership to replenish the culture one grain at a time, all the time."

Tractor Supply’s corporate culture reflects those values. Every employee carries an ethics card that lists 10 corporate values. At the top of that list: "Do the right thing and always encourage others to do the right, honest and ethical things."  Other values include respect, balance, winning attitude, communication, development, teamwork, change, initiative and accountability. The back of the card espouses Tractor Supply's mission: "To work hard, have fun and make money by providing legendary service and great products at everyday low prices."

The sales formula seems to be working. "Under his leadership, the company has transitioned into one of the best performers in hardlines retail," said Wedbush Securities analyst Joan Storms. "That has translated to a strong stock performance, cash flow and earnings power."

Wright has actually diagrammed his paradigm for sales success. Driven by what he calls a “retail engine,” he lists the corporate culture elements that protect the engine. These include "values, ethics, collaboration and risk taking." At the bottom are sales and profits drivers, which include "customer loyalty, team member loyalty, vendor loyalty and shareholder loyalty."

The key to recession-proof sales has many elements. It starts with a solid corporate culture that insists on placing the customer first. It continues by offering customers what  they really need in these tough times—value  for the money and service that adds value.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia


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  • Claudia R
    Claudia R
    We discovered Tractor Supply in our area.  As people interested in gardening, animals and rural living, it really can't be beat.  I love the store.  
  • Burt B
    Burt B
    TSC the only place to shop for me. The store I shop has an amazing store manager.
  • Alex Kecskes
    Alex Kecskes
    Thank you for all your comments. Attitude and putting the customer first pays off. Way to go TSC.
  • Ellen S
    Ellen S
    I shop at tractor supply and the employees are very helpful if they don't have what you are looking for they special order it for you. That is the right attitude customers come first.
  • Mary Louise L
    Mary Louise L
    I think it's a great attitude to have, the "Can Do" attitude.  I understand during the "great depresion" that those companies that were successful were those that continued to advertise.  Good job Tractor Supply!
  • Sally W
    Sally W
    I shop at Tractor Supply a lot and I really like the store. I can always find what I wont. If they don't have it they will try to get it for me.
  • Betty M
    Betty M
    I believe TSC is a great company.  I do wish that TSC would carry more local/USA products.  One other thing that I believe would be helpful is a "Green Approach" section, for lack of a better word.  I have a degree in plant and soil science using all the chemicals etc.  However as time has gone by I see that a more natural approach, composting and the use of organic practices could benefit us all.
  • Alan P
    Alan P
    This is why I sent my resume to TSC last week for a DM position in my area.  Who wouldn't want to be part of such a great organization !
  • j carter
    j carter
    mr wright is right on, although, a while ago i witnessed and took part in related retail sales environment, his thought are store help provoking thought. good luck
  • Richard C
    Richard C
    Since March 2009 the farm and fleet store I had been working at until November 2012 has been giving Tractor Supply a run for their money.  Still I have to appreciate the values and mission Mr. Wright has espoused for his company and employees.
  •  Ray M
    Ray M
    I go to tractor supply,for just about all my needs they keep A clean store and friendly faces.
    what a wonderful world if more businesses used your moral business approach.. Wow, what if our government had the same moral code of ethics.
  • Keith b
    Keith b
    Good article and good news for rural america way to go Tractor supplyKeith
  • Margaret Z
    Margaret Z
    I worked at TSC years ago. I had a great time there, you certainly get to know your neighbors and many of the small businesses in the area.Many times, we were the last place someone stopped, but became the first place from then on.Due to health reasons, I had to look for other employment, I would have stayed in a heartbeat otherwise.As it happened, my youngest daughter also worked there and had a great time too. She left to start her family.TSC is one of the best local chain stores and I still go in to shop.
  • Matt M
    Matt M
     Good Show, Damned Good Show. All companies should be run this way. Great Job.
  • Jessica M
    Jessica M
    Culture in the work place is so important, as an employee of a major retail chain and now working at a mom n pop chain. The difference is like night n day.  Wonder how retail stores make it without this culture? High turn over, wish all retailers would learn about this culture stuff.  It would revolutionize the world if we would take a hint from Tractor Worlds practices. Going to apply there now, appreciate the look inside corp!
  •  Charles R
    Charles R
    It is refreshing to hear of a company that expresses the values I was taught as a youngster and have practiced for my 77 years...don't toss something into the dump just because it is obama wants to do with seniors not in his circle. Let us repair the broken and get more use  from them. I would like to see a outlet in my area.

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