Pop open the hood on the Tractor Supply Company and you’ll find a retailer that provides many of the essential goods that were deemed necessary during the COVID-19 crisis.
A tour of a Tractor Supply store reveals aisles and displays containing hardware, lawn, and garden, tools, outdoor power equipment, paint, workwear, decor, pet products, toys and, of course, farm and ranch products such as feed and fencing. And don’t forget seasonal baby chicks and ducklings, along with traditional truck, trailer and tractor needs.
But Tractor Supply has evolved into much more than just a farm and ranch retailer, particularly when it comes to the technical progress the company built in 2020.
In June, the Brentwood, Tenn.-based retailer launched a revamped website along with its first mobile app.
The app, which helps customers shop faster, track orders, schedule deliveries, and check Neighbor’s Club rewards, is available through the Apple Store or on Google Play. Tractor Supply said that it is actively rolling out new features to the app to improve shopping convenience and accessibility.
Tractor Supply followed the summer launches by reporting that second quarter sales had jumped 35% to a record $3.18 billion compared to sales of $2.35 billion in the second quarter of 2019. Net sales for the first six months of 2020 increased 23% to $5.14 billion.
Comparable store sales for the second quarter were also strong, increasing 30.5%. The company said comp-store sales were driven by comparable transaction count and comparable average ticket increases of 14.6% and 15.8%, respectively.
E-commerce sales increased by triple digits during the second quarter. And while the exact digital total was not disclosed, it reflects a steady ramp-up of digital services that go hand-in-hand with Tractor Supply’s brick and mortar locations.
In September, Tractor Supply reached a milestone when it opened its 1,900th location in Oakhurst, Calif. The retailer could have as many as 80 new store openings by the end of 2020. Company locations remain an integral part of the Tractor Supply formula. With much fewer stores than the likes of The Home Depot or Lowe’s, there remains plenty of room for growth; especially in rural markets.
Some of Tractor Supply’s success in 2020 can be attributed to the retailer remaining open as an essential business while government agencies halted other commercial activities during the dimmest days of the COVID-19 crisis. But Tractor Supply wasn’t satisfied with merely keeping its doors open. Updating and upgrading its digital presence has been a driver.
“Over the last few months, we have successfully rolled out new technology and services such as curbside pickup, same day/next day delivery and our first-ever mobile app,” CEO Hal Lawton said this summer. “We are excited today to announce our Field Activity Support Team (FAST) and several new technology and service enhancements that are being implemented across the enterprise”
Looking to build on its ONETractor strategy, but remain elastic with rapidly changing technology, Tractor Supply formed a new partnership with tech giant Microsoft in January.
Tractor Supply Company said that it selected Microsoft as its preferred and strategic cloud provider to support technology architecture and modernization for the company’s ecommerce website and enterprise analytics platform.
The agreement supports Tractor Supply’s ONETractor strategy of leveraging physical and digital assets to deliver personalized, convenient shopping experiences anytime, anywhere and in any way customers choose, the retailer said.
Tractor Supply has also selected Microsoft Azure to support the upgrade of its ecommerce platform at TractorSupply.com. The company said that the Azure cloud solution will allow it to deploy workloads at scale while remaining elastic and agile to support changing demand.
At the time of the Microsoft announcement, Rob Mills, Tractor Supply’s executive vice president, chief technology, digital commerce and strategy officer, said, “We believe that this collaboration with Microsoft will help us drive innovation and stay nimble when responding to market changes and our customers’ ever-evolving needs.”
Little did the company or the world know just how quickly the market would change in March with growth of the coronavirus in the United States.
Tractor Supply says its e-commerce business has seen substantial growth quarter-to-date with many customers choosing the “buy online, pickup at store” option, along with contactless curbside pickup. The company also said that it is experiencing record sales across all channels, product categories, and regions.
As social distancing became a norm in the nation, Tractor Supply was one of the first retailers to emphasize curbside pickup. Then the company took the move a step further. In April, Tractor Supply expanded its same-day delivery service in partnership with Roadie, to all of its U.S. stores - more than 1,860 locations at the time.
(This article originally appeared in the October 2020 edition of HBSDealer.)