Tractor Supply Making Hay
Thursday, July 26th, 2012
Tractor Supply has made hay off of Americans’ desire to live an “out-here” lifestyle, as the company calls it, a life free of urban crowds or suburban traffic.
With a major distribution plant under construction in Macon and more than four dozen Tractor Supply stores in the state, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company also has connected with Georgia’s rural landowners.
“Tractor Supply is committed to understanding and fulfilling the needs of those who enjoy the rural lifestyle: folks who frequently describe themselves as hobby farmers and hobby ranchers,” said Christi Korzekwa, Tractor Supply Company’s vice president of brand marketing.
In just under 75 years, the company has grown from a mail-order catalog business selling tractor parts to the largest retail farm and ranch store chain in the United States with revenues of approximately $4 billion.
Much of that growth is in small farms – less than 10 percent of the store’s customer base is large growers – and homesteads where people live a rural lifestyle.
The strategy is paying off and 2012 may be the year for Tractor Supply, which plans to open 90 to 95 new stores across the country this year and maybe as many next year. Today, the company has 1,135 stores in 45 states, according to Korzekwa, including 46 in Georgia.
The stores are spread across the U.S. – Colorado just got its first one – and are primarily in rural areas and the outlying suburbs of major cities. The typical Tractor Supply store has 15,000-24,000 square feet of inside floor space and a similar amount outside to display agricultural fencing, livestock equipment and horse stalls.
Stores supply products that support customers’ rural lifestyles, from welders and generators to animal feed to blue jeans. The clerks include people with a background in farming, welding or animal care.
The selection and technical advice draws people like Diane Roberts, who shops at a Tractor Supply store outside of Athens to buy feed for her 30 rescue horses, chickens, cats and dogs.
People like Roberts spend an estimated $5.5 billion year on supplies for their hobby farms, but the quantities that Tractor Supply sells makes the store more handy than a traditional feed store, Roberts said.
“I was going to feed stores in outlying areas, but this is a lot more convenient,” she said. “It’s all farm stuff here, and there’s a little of everything. It’s nice to be able to get everything all in one stop.”
The staff even helped her load feed bags into her vehicle recently when she was recovering from heart surgery, Roberts said. She dropped off homemade sweets later to show how much she appreciated the help.
Convenience is one of Tractor Supply’s strategies, Korzekwa said.
“Consumers today are generally time-starved. Prior to Tractor Supply entering their markets, they would have to drive to four or more retailers to purchase what we sell,” she said. “We have established ourselves as a one-stop-shop for many, if not most, of their everyday necessities, but we also offer variety and selection in our assortment where our customers can make the best choices based on their unique needs.”
In middle Georgia, the company’s growth is paying off in a big way.
Last month, the company announced that it would build a 650,000-square-foot distribution center in Macon to replace an aging, leased facility in Braselton, northeast of Atlanta.
That investment means 200 new jobs for Bibb County by next fall.
To lure the plant, local officials spent $3.2 million in infrastructure upgrades and provided tax abatements. They also built a three-lane road which is now called “Tractor Supply Boulevard.”
“Because of their growth and where that growth is happening, Macon was a good logistical location for them,” said Pat Topping, the senior vice president of Macon’s Economic Development Commission.
Once officials were able to disclose the name of the company opening a distribution facility in the city, they learned about the popularity of Tractor Supply, which has stores in Macon and nearby Warner Robins.
“Everybody seems to love Tractor Supply and was excited to hear who the company was,” Topping said. “Even the general manager of the Marriott (in Macon) shops at Tractor Supply. She’s a horse owner, so she shops there.”
While customers come in for different reasons, they share a common outlook.
“We’re all farmer folks here,” Roberts said.