What happened

The stock of Tractor Supply (NASDAQ:TSCO) outperformed a strong market last month by rising 20% compared to a 13% increase in the S&P 500, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The rally put more space between the market and the retailer's shares, which are up 7% so far in 2020.

A farm with horses.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

April's bounce was supported by the generally strong earnings results the rural-lifestyle retailer announced late in the month. Comparable-store sales rose 4.3% in the first quarter, management said, in a period that included nearly two weeks of aggressive social-distancing efforts across the country.

"Our year-to-date results underscore the importance of Tractor Supply as an essential, needs-based retailer," CEO Hal Lawton said. The company is bucking several negative industry trends, including by adding employees and boosting profitability.

Now what

The damage from the COVID-19 pandemic is sure to grow in the fiscal second quarter, which is one reason Tractor Supply has made several moves aimed at shoring up its finances in anticipation of difficult selling conditions. Yet its growing sales at stores in recent weeks and booming e-commerce demand are strong data points showing the chain's staple position in many consumers' monthly budgets.