As a growth investor, I’m always on the hunt for fast growing companies at a reasonable price.
Which is why I took such an interest in Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ:TSCO), a farm and ranch retail supplies store with operations throughout the United States and Canada. With a 4 star rating, the stock is a favorite of the Motley Fool Caps community. The company also boasts an impressive growth story with respectable financial results.
But being the urbanite I am, I couldn’t talk to the business what-so-ever. So I departed from my downtown Toronto condo with a nonfat venti latte and made my way to Milton, Ontario to see the business firsthand.
My initial concern with Tractor Supply was direct, head-to-head competition against larger retail names like The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD).
However, the company has carved out an interesting niche selling farming equipment, horse feed, power tools, clothing and welding supplies. Tractor Supply caters to farmers, ranchers and trades people rather suburban homeowners completing do-it-yourself projects. This means Tractor Supply doesn’t compete directly against the orange big-box giant.
Within Tractor Supply's niche, competition is fragmented. The company is three times the size of its next five competitors giving Tractor Supply considerable supplier negotiating power, economies of scale and a price advantage.
Tractor Supply has a conservative growth plan aiming to increase square footage by 8% annually. The company's goal is to increase its store count from 1,175 to 2,100 locations.
Management has given conservative same store sales guidance with of goal of increasing comps 3%-5% annually. This has been achieved by better in-store space utilization, product regionalization, individual in-store initiatives and regularly refreshing merchandise.
Additional stores and increased same-store sales translates into a revenue and EPS growth rate in the mid-teens. For full year 2012, the company provided $4.61-$4.65 billion revenue and $3.63-$3.69 EPS guidance.
Tractor Supply has been improving margins with better pricing strategies, inventory management and private branding. These tactics appear to be working. Gross margins grew from 31.7% in 2008 to 33.3% in 2011.
In addition, most of the company's expenses like store support and distribution centers are fixed. As the company expands, these expenses become proportionally smaller giving the company significant economies of scale.
Pie-in-the-sky growth projections are nice, but can the company actually deliver?
Tractor Supply's finances are in great shape. The company funds growth entirely through cash flows from operations with additional room for a small dividend and share buyback. The company`s balance sheet is pristine with only $120 million in long term debt. This gives Tractor Supply considerable financial flexibility to execute its growth plans.
And while there has been a recent CEO shakeup, management has delivered on every milestone in the company`s growth plan so far while providing double digit return on equity figures for shareholders.
The financial and human resources are in place for expansion.