Market Insider

This heartland retailer tried to blame weather for its poor results, but Wall Street isn't buying it

Key Points
  • Tractor Supply bills itself as the largest "rural lifestyle" retail store in the U.S., selling tractors, work clothes and seed.
  • Company blamed poor weather in the Northern U.S. for disappointing sales to start the year.
  • The shares tanked more than 6 percent as analysts were skeptical weather was the real reason for the poor results.
Tractor Supply Company rang the Opening Bell at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York on Oct. 10, 2013.
Tractor Supply Company | AP

Shares of Tractor Supply Company, which bills itself as the nation's largest "rural lifestyle" retailer, tumbled on Wednesday after the company announced disappointing same-store sales results to start the year because of bad weather.

The stock closed down over 8 percent on Wednesday.

In an update provided to investors on Tuesday, the company said its comparable store sales — a metric closely watched by Wall Street for retail stocks — decreased 2.2 percent in the first quarter, compared with an increase of 4.9 percent for the same period one year ago.

"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 company said.

"Weather can influence the demand for certain products," CEO Greg Sandfort said in a statement. "We believe seasonal merchandise sales will improve as we move further into the spring selling season."

This so-called weather dependence, though, is concerning and lends itself to some debate, Credit Suisse's research group fired back in a Wednesday note to clients, saying weather was an "even bigger headwind" than the firm expected from Tractor Supply.

Sandfort's statements suggest "a greater reliance on the external drivers than perhaps in the past," wrote Credit Suisse analyst Seth Sigman. "That will naturally raise some questions
about 'structural' issues, as well as [Tractor Supply's] premium valuation."

In the past, the investment firm said, it didn't see negative comps during periods where weather was impacting the entire industry — which includes one of Tractor Supply's top competitors, Deere.

"Is it weather or something more?" asked the analyst note.

Credit Suisse lowered its price target on the stock to $70 from $73 and maintained a neutral rating on shares. The stock's closing price was $64.61 per share on Wednesday.

Tractor Supply reported its sales for the quarter ended April 1 came in at $1.56 billion, missing a $1.57 billion estimate from Thomson Reuters.

As of Wednesday's close, shares of Tractor Supply have lost more than 27 percent over the past 12 months and are down around 14 percent this year.

TSCO 12-month performance 

Source: FactSet