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Tractor Supply shows strength despite tough weather conditions

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Sales of animal- and pet-related merchandise and winter seasonal items helped push up sales at Brentwood, Tenn.-based Tractor Supply Co. in the first quarter ended March 29. 

Net sales increased 9.0% in the quarter to $1.18 billion, up from $1.09 billion in the same quarter last year. Comparable-store sales increased 2.2%. 

Net income for the quarter increased 10.9% to $48.8 million, up from $44.0 million 

Greg Sandfort, president and CEO, said the first-quarter results demonstrated an ability to perform during tough weather conditions. "Despite the late arrival of spring, our comparable-store transaction count increased a strong 4.4%, and we continued to gain market share by offering our customers a one-stop shop for their everyday basic needs," he said. "Our teams continue to work diligently to adjust timing of shipments, depth of inventory and marketing cadence by region to ensure we are well-positioned to capitalize on the spring selling season as temperatures normalize."

Selling, general and administrative expenses, including depreciation and amortization, increased to 26.8% of sales compared with 26.1% of sales in the prior year’s first quarter. The increase as a percent of sales was primarily attributable to higher occupancy and store-level costs directly related to the extreme cold weather for items, such as utilities, snow removal and building repair, as well as increased distribution center costs.

The company opened 32 new stores in the first quarter, including its 1,300th in Bullhead City, Ariz.

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Five ways to engage employees in change

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Change is constant in most organizations — and it is an essential component of growth. Typically, when organizations undergo change initiatives, leaders tend to focus on laying out the procedural steps they must take, but they often ignore the human component of change: steering their team toward the new vision, transforming culture, encouraging learning and growth, and communicating.

Whether your organization is embarking on a merger or acquisition, adjusting its operations, or marketing new services, the course shift will require employees to think, act and behave differently to align to the new direction. It’s important to remember that employees are only human, and thus they will not automatically adapt to new processes. It’s only natural for them to feel frustrated and to demonstrate some level of resistance. A good leader can effectively address employees’ concerns by giving them a degree of control over the change.

To guide your team through a successful transformation, consider these actions:

Start with a vision. You need a common vision on how your team will work together and with any stakeholders to make the change initiative a reality. With a stated vision, you’ll eliminate any confusion for your employees or any stakeholders on how the team will adapt. Prioritize setting this vision ahead of all other tasks. Your team members must remain focused on and aligned with this vision, so try to avoid starting competing initiatives at the same time. Introducing too many new things at once will create an implosion of all efforts.

Develop a strategy. After creating a vision, engage your team members about how to get there. They and other stakeholders need to understand their roles in implementing a strategy that will fulfill the vision. Understand who your stakeholders are and what they need so that you are able to work with them. Questions you need to answer include the following:

• What new skills and abilities will employees need?

• How will employees learn them?

• What is the plan for communicating with employees and other stakeholders about the change?

• How will you measure success?

• What is needed to make transformation stick?

Be a champion of change. For successful change to occur, you need to be a dynamic role model. Employees need to know that their leader is personally committed to the success of the change. Practice this by removing barriers, providing resources, ensuring learning, partnering with stakeholders, supporting employees through change, measuring progress and quickly managing resistance.

Communicate early and often. Middle and front-line leaders are the primary communicators to employees. Communication from them should be frequent and consistent. Everyone affected by the change needs to know what it entails, why and how it is happening, and what’s in it for them. Don’t impose change; engage employees in a conversation about it. Ask them what they think and how they are feeling. They will talk if you listen.

Get in front of problems. Concern is a normal response to a change initiative. Create a safe environment and a mechanism that allows employees to air their issues and bring forth problems before there is any chance of escalation or derailment. Respond fairly, reasonably and in alignment with the vision of the change, regardless of anyone’s role or level in the organization. Keep in mind that what you think is a small issue may be a large concern for the person affected.

In situations where transformation is profoundly resisted despite efforts to engage, address the situation head-on. Otherwise, you may be required to do excessive work-arounds. You may also experience increased employee turnover or efforts to sabotage the change initiative.

Organizational change is a complex process that requires time, patience and dedication. If you lead and engage employees through the change, you are more likely to achieve sustainable success.

Rachel Bangasser is an organizational change leader at the state government level and holds a doctorate in organization development.

©2014, Society for Human Resource Management

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).   

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New home sales down 14.5% in March

BY HBSDEALER Staff

New home sales took it on the chin in March.

According to the Commerce Department, sales of new single-family homes reached their lowest level since last July, dropping 14.5% month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000.

This is also 13.3% down from year-ago levels, which is the largest year-over-year decline since April 2011.

The median sales price for new houses sold in March was $290,000, with the average sales price hitting slightly higher at $334,200.

The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of March was 193,000, representing a 6.0-month supply.

The stock market responded in kind by Thursday’s close, with homebuilding stocks in particular taking a hit.

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