5 Reasons to Buy Tractor Supply Company

Robert is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

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.

Lucrative niche

My initial concern with Tractor Supply was direct, head-to-head competition against larger retail names like Home Depot (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.

Visible growth

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. 

<img src="/media/images/user_14324/tsco1_large.png" />

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. 

<img src="/media/images/user_14324/tsco2_large.png" />

Margin expansion

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. 

<img src="/media/images/user_14324/tsco3_large.png" />

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. 

<img src="/media/images/user_14324/tsco4_large.png" />

Excellent execution

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.

Reasonable valuation

Last summer the stock got a bit ahead of itself at $100 and the company failed to meet lofty Wall Street expectations. Since then the stock has languished in the $80-$90 range. 

<img src="/media/images/user_14324/tsco5_large.png" />

However, nothing has really changed about this story and earnings are slowly catching up to the share price. The stock trades at 21.5x forward earnings. With EPS expected to grow 17.5% next year, the stock is valued at a reasonable 1.2 PEG ratio.

This is in-line with comparable mid-cap specialty retail stocks such as Cabela'sDick's Sporting Goods and PetSmart which trade at a 1.15, 1.35 and 1.45 on a PEG basis respectively. 

<img src="/media/images/user_14324/tsco6_large.png" />

Foolish bottom line

Of course there are some risks in the Tractor Supply story.

The company has benefited from a booming rural economy driven by rising food and farmland prices. A sharp price drop in commodities would take the secular tailwinds out of Tractor Supply’s sails. In addition, the company failed to meet its 3% same store sales growth target in the previous quarter. This is a metric to watch closely when the company reports earnings next week.

Yet despite these concerns, Tractor Supply is still a great buy due to the company's growth potential, margin expansion and reasonable valuation. 

RobertBaillieul has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot and PetSmart. The Motley Fool owns shares of Dick's Sporting Goods. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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