Tractor Supply (TSCO -3.36%) investors have been left out of the recent stock market rally. Shares of the lifestyle retailer fell in July even as the wider market jumped 8%. That slump came even as the company reported solid sales and earnings trends through late June.

Let's look at why those results point to solid returns for this stock, which is trailing the market so far in 2022.

Keeping customers happy

Tractor Supply is doing all the right things to keep expanding its business through wild swings in consumer demand. Comparable-store sales rose 6% last quarter even compared to soaring results a year ago.

That boost met expectations and even convinced management to raise its outlook for the full 2022 year. Management cited "ongoing consistency of our sales performance" as one big reason why they are so bullish about revenue trends today.

The stock still fell in July, mainly thanks to concerns about weakness in the wider retailing market. Walmart is a key competitor and on July 25 the company lowered its profit outlook while indicating the need for more price cuts. Meanwhile, Target has reduced its earnings forecast in recent months, too, due to sharp shifts in consumer spending patterns.

There are good reasons to think that Tractor Supply will be impacted by those negative trends, too, but maybe not to the same extent. The company sells fewer home furnishings and discretionary items. Pet and livestock maintenance products aren't as exposed to quick consumer preference shifts, after all. As a result, I'd expect the chain to outperform peers like Walmart even if consumers become more cautious while shopping.

Good profit outlook

Tractor Supply in late July reported a big increase in inventory holdings, which can often be a red flag for a retailing stock. Walmart, Target, and many other companies have had to increase promotions to reduce inventory in certain categories lately, for example. That inventory level is worth watching but shouldn't have investors too worried.

Executives said they have the right product mix in place right now. That confidence was clear from the fact that Tractor Supply just raised its sales growth outlook to between 5.2% and 5.8% gains from the prior forecast of between 3% and 4.5%. Higher inventory shouldn't be a problem unless it occurs at the same time as a surprising slowdown in demand.

Looking ahead

Another great reason to like this stock is Tractor Supply's long runway for expanding its footprint. The company should open at least 70 new stores this year compared to 80 locations in 2021. Combine that rising square footage with increased spending and customer traffic at existing locations, and you have all the key components for a successful growth stock.

Sure, the earnings picture has become a bit cloudier due to inflation and the potential for a recession on the way. But those risks are always present in the retailing industry. Investors should try to look past those concerns and focus on Tractor Supply's prospects for cracking $14 billion in annual sales this year compared to $8.3 billion in 2019.

Operating income is on pace to crack 10% of sales as well, compared to 9% back then. Continued wins on these big-picture metrics should deliver great returns for investors who simply hold the growth stock over the long term.