BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — Tractor Supply Co. (NASDAQ: TSCO), the largest rural lifestyle retail store chain in the United States, announces financial results for its first quarter ended April 1, 2017.

First Quarter Results

Net sales for the first quarter 2017 increased 6.6% to $1.56 billion from $1.47 billion in the first quarter of 2016. Comparable store sales decreased 2.2% compared to an increase of 4.9% (2.6% adjusted for the week shift) in the prior year's first quarter. Each quarter of fiscal 2017 starts one week later than the same quarter of fiscal 2016 due to the company's 2016 fiscal year having 53 weeks versus the normal 52 weeks. The comparable store sales results included decreases in comparable transaction count and average ticket of 1.4% and 0.9%, respectively. The decrease in comparable store sales was primarily driven by lower sales of seasonal merchandise and the impact of deflation. On a regional basis, sales were most challenged in the Northern regions, where weather had a more pronounced impact on sales for the quarter. The weakness in seasonal categories was partially offset by a positive comparable store sales increase in the Livestock and Pet category.

Gross profit increased 4.8% to $518.2 million from $494.4 million in the prior year's first quarter, and gross margin decreased 60 basis points to 33.1% from 33.7% in the prior year's first quarter. The decrease in gross margin was primarily driven by higher markdowns on cold weather merchandise, targeted promotional activity, and a higher freight expense for consumable, usable and edible (C.U.E.) products.

Selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses, including depreciation and amortization, increased 9.2% to $421.8 million from $386.2 million in the prior year period. As a percent of net sales, SG&A expenses increased 70 basis points to 27.0% from 26.3% in the first quarter of 2016. The increase in the SG&A ratio was primarily attributable to the deleveraging of store personnel and occupancy expenses from the decline in comparable store sales.

Net income decreased 10.9% to $60.3 million from $67.7 million and diluted earnings per share decreased 8.0% to $0.46 from $0.50 in the first quarter of the prior year.

The company opened 24 new Tractor Supply stores and converted its two Hometown Pet stores to Petsense stores in the first quarter of 2017 compared to 36 new store openings and three store closures, all of which were Del's stores, in the prior year period. The company also opened nine new Petsense stores (including the conversion of the Hometown Pet stores) during the quarter and had no store closures.

Greg Sandfort, chief executive officer, stated, "Due to the challenging weather conditions, we were unable to offset the strong seasonal performance from last year's first quarter. As the weather has normalized over the past few weeks, we are encouraged with how the customer has responded and believe there is significant spring business ahead of us. Looking ahead, we know the retail landscape is changing very quickly, and we know our customers' expectations are changing as well. With this in mind, we continue to execute against the strategic initiatives that we believe will drive sales and customer service as well as maintain our competitive positioning."

Fiscal 2017 Outlook

Given the seasonality of the business and the impact weather can have on the timing of sales between quarters, the business is more accurately assessed by the halves and not the quarters. As a result, the company has not updated guidance for the results of operations expected for fiscal 2017.

Founded in 1938, Tractor Supply is the largest rural lifestyle retail store chain in the United States. At April 1, 2017, the company operated 1,617 Tractor Supply stores in 49 states and an e-commerce website at rural use. Tractor Supply Co. also owns and operates Petsense, a small-box pet specialty supply retailer focused on meeting the needs of pet owners, primarily in small and mid-size communities, and offering a variety of pet products and services. At April 1, 2017, the company operated 152 Petsense stores in 26 states. 

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