Our recent Fool by Numbers will walk you through the first-quarter details, but in a nutshell, colder weather helped drive stronger-than-expected sales of snow removal equipment and warmer winter work clothes for the company's core farm and ranch customers. This also helped earnings exceed last year's first quarter by 12 times.
That sounds better than it really is, as Tractor Supply only reported $0.12 in earnings. The first quarter is generally the slowest of the year, so the company has much more work to do to get to the $2.49-$2.56 it's currently calling for. This starts with the upcoming second quarter, which is generally the strongest period, followed by the fourth-quarter holiday and winter-preparation season.
At the current stock price, Tractor Supply trades at about 22 times forward earnings. Cash flow generation is strong but is completely used to expand the store base and maintain existing locations. And the company continues to keep expansion brisk by adding 85-90 stores to the 698 in existence at the end of the quarter.
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Fortunately, Tractor Supply has had to go into cost-cutting mode. Its sales have improved close to 20% annually on average over the past five years, and bottom-line trends have been even stronger.
If rapid gains continue as expected and growth is what you're seeking, the stock may be worth a further look. The downside is substantial because of the higher valuation and risk that goes with investing in a smaller firm in a crowded retail space, but the company's rural focus at least helps keep it away from the big-box behemoths.
For related Foolishness:
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- Tractor Supply out of Its Rut: Fool by Numbers
- Watching the Wheels on Tractor Supply
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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann is long shares of Tractor Supply, Bed Bath, and El Depot but has no financial interest in any other company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.