When I was a kid, I visited my grandfather’s ranch for a couple of months each summer. My memories of these visits are fond: herding cattle on horseback and listening to the happy cluck of chickens in the coop.
One of the most memorable parts of my annual visit was always when my grandfather took me in the pick-up to the local Tractor Supply store. That might sound strange, but I loved the place – there were so many different products, and the shop’s aisles felt never-ending!
It is no surprise to me that the Tractor Supply Company is the biggest rural lifestyle retailer in America. However, reminiscing about my childhood visits has got me thinking: how does it compare to other stores like Rural King and Blaine’s Farm and Fleet?
In this Tractor Supply competitors analysis, I will look closely at firms dominating the rural retail supply industry. I’ll also explore how the industry responds to changing attitudes to farming in the US and globally.
The farm supply market size in the US is $23 billion as of 2022, with average annual growth of 2.5% since 2017. As the global population increases – expected to hit 9.7 billion by 2050 – the demand for food will increase, so you’d expect farm supplies to be in hot demand too.
However, the environmental movement is calling into question where and how we source our food. As a result, there is a question mark over the future of farming, which casts doubt on the continued growth of the farm supply retail market.
The Bottom Line Up Front
Tractor Supply Company is the leading rural lifestyle retail company in the US. With several family-run businesses to compete with, this retail sector can be challenging, especially since one company can inspire so much brand loyalty.
Take my grandfather, for example. He wouldn’t dream of shopping anywhere other than Tractor Supply Company (TSC) for his ranch supplies, and he passed that loyalty on to me. Fortunately, TSC has taken several proactive steps to promote online and in-store customer retention, putting it ahead of rival companies.
List of Tractor Supply’s Main Competitors
- Rural King
- Blain’s Farm and Fleet
- Home Depot
- Atwood’s Ranch & Home
Tractor Supply Business Strategy
Tractor Supply Company is an American chain of retail stores founded in 1938 and headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee. It sells a range of rural and agricultural products for farming, home improvement, livestock, lawn and garden maintenance, pet care, and equine care.
The company started selling mail-order tractor parts (hence the name) but has expanded its product portfolio considerably. Today, it is America’s largest operator of rural lifestyle stores. It has more than 2,000 stores in 49 states, catering to many customers, including land owners, farmers, pet owners, ranchers, and lovers of the outdoors.
Recently, TSC has started seeking exclusive products and brands to sell in its stores, which is part of the company’s mission to cultivate a unique and recognizable identity. It uses a CBX software company called Trade Beyond to find products it can sell exclusively in TSC stores.
TSC can make these products its own, which gives it a competitive advantage over rivals. It already has over 20 store brands in its portfolio, the largest of which is 4health pet food.
Rob Mills, the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology and Strategy Officer at TSC, is working hard to create a culture of change in the business. He emphasizes the company’s role as an educator and retailer; it’s essential that staff can pass on knowledge and expertise to customers.
TSC has a comprehensive growth strategy in place for 2022 and beyond. The company is leveraging its extensive network of distribution facilities and stores, as well as its online footprint, to reinforce its leading position in the marketplace.
In 2021, for example, TSC opened 80 new stores in 31 states, and after doubling digital sales in the past two years, the company wants to achieve the same again, pushing for more than $2 billion by 2026, which will account for more than 15% of TSC’s total revenue.
The rural community often lag regarding technology adoption, but TSC aims to bridge the gap with isolated communities by introducing new shopping methods.
In 2020, TSC released its first mobile app, which now has over 1 million downloads, and the buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) service model is popular with customers, accounting for over 75% of digital sales.
TSC reached over $12.7 billion in net sales in 2021.
Tractor Supply Competitors Analysis
Tractor Supply Company competes against other rural lifestyle retailers, including Rural King and Atwood’s Ranch and Home.
Rural King Supply (RKS), also known as RK Holdings, LLP, is a farm store founded in 1960 and headquartered in Mattoon, Illinois. It has over 125 stores in US states, including Tennessee, Florida, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
RKS provides essential goods, clothing, food, seed, feed, and farm- and home-related products. The company’s business strategy focuses on delivering the best price, quality, and service in all its stores.
In addition to physical stores, RSK also has an online store and an online gun store. It does not manufacture any of its products, nor does it have any own-brand items as Tractor Supply does. Instead, RSK operates using a markup revenue model.
To ensure its customers have an excellent experience when they visit a Rural King store, the company offers complimentary coffee and popcorn, which has proved popular.
In addition to this, RSK has partnered with ReviewTrackers to help monitor customer feedback. This partnership has allowed RSK to discover trends, pin down customer data, and reduce its review response time.
You need to focus on two things to compete in the rural lifestyle retail industry successfully: customer experience and product availability. We have already seen how RSK prioritizes the customer experience; now, let’s look at the second pillar of success, which RSK achieves through a partnership with RangeMe.
RangeMe helps RSK discover new products that will keep its range fresh, relevant, and industry-leading. The biggest pitfall specialist retailers face the possibility that customers will come to their stores looking for a specific item only to be disappointed. Chances are, they will go straight to a competitor looking for the missing item.
RSK’s customer-first approach has allowed the company to expand rapidly. In 2021, it invested over $33 million to renovate and equip a new distribution facility based in Ohio, creating 170 full-time jobs.
Rural King generated just over $1 billion in revenue in 2021.
Blain’s Farm and Fleet (BFF), also known as Blain’s Supply, Inc., is a regional chain of stores specializing in agricultural equipment and supplies, fishing equipment, pet supplies, hunting equipment, tires, housewares, and clothing.
There are 44 BFF stores in Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The company was founded in 1955 – over a decade later than TSC – and is headquartered in Janesville, Wisconsin.
The mission and values of BFF are firmly rooted in the culture and traditions of the Midwest. However, while BFF takes tradition seriously (unsurprising since it is a family-run business), it is also highly modern.
As well as operating several stores, BFF offers a range of services, including:
- Drive-thru pick up
- Hunting and fishing licenses
- Gift cards
- Automotive services
- Small engine repair
- Same-day local delivery
In short, BFF strives to meet all its customers’ agricultural and outdoor needs without the need for them to shop elsewhere.
One of the most significant contributors to BFF’s success has undoubtedly been its willingness to embrace the rise of digital technology and e-commerce.
For example, BFF’s partnership with Informatics, a project management company, has resulted in a 110% increase in social revenue thanks to the company’s expanded digital presence using Google display ads, YouTube ads, social listening, social media ads, and affiliate marketing.
Like TSC and Rural King, BFF strongly emphasizes customer satisfaction, but it also values employee satisfaction because it sees this metric as the key to fast growth. In 2021, Forbes named BFF one of America’s best midsize employers and gave it a position of 17th among all wholesale and retail companies in the US.
Personally, I think this open-minded approach to business is outstanding for what is ultimately a regional retailer. In particular, the implementation of a drive-thru pick-up service, which identifies and meets the needs of BFF’s customer base, is impressive.
BFF’s attempts to improve the customer experience don’t stop there. In 2021, the company partnered with CB4, an artificial intelligence solution that helps businesses uncover opportunities to improve sales by (among other things) offering a better in-store experience.
BFF is one of the most proactive businesses in the US regarding improvement and growth. Its annual revenue is around $211 million.
Home Depot – founded in 1978 and headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia – is the largest home improvement warehouse chain in North America. It has over 2,000 big box format stores in the US, Canada, and Mexico.
As you might have gathered, Home Depot isn’t a direct competitor of TSC because it doesn’t specialize in rural lifestyle goods. Still, it does sell many of the same products, such as tools, appliances, and construction products. It is also the largest home improvement retailer in the US.
Home Depot’s business strategy focuses on large-scale customer acquisition through everyday low pricing and saturation marketing. Like TSC, it stocks many exclusive products that aren’t available elsewhere.
Instead of focusing on market share, Home Depot’s business model prioritizes volume by maximizing the number of customers entering each store. To achieve this, Home Depot encourages customer loyalty through free services (like delivery) and discounts.
Strategic acquisitions partially drive the company’s growth plan. In 2020, for example, Home Depot acquired HD Supply Holdings, Inc. for $8 billion, creating more opportunities for geographic coverage. In particular, this acquisition positioned Home Depot as the leading provider of maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) products.
Recognizing the importance of digital in the rapidly changing world of business, Home Depot devised a new multi-year strategy in 2017 to transform into a fully interconnected retailer, seamlessly merging the digital and physical worlds. This strategy, named One Home Depot, involves six pillars:
- People – developing talents and skills among associates
- Stores – giving them a new look and feel
- Product innovation – investments in product assortments and visual merchandising
- Supply chain and delivery – 150 new facilities added to the Home Depot network
- Interconnected and digital experience – increasing focus on online sales and the mobile app
- Pro ecosystem – enhanced B2B services
So far, this strategy seems to serve the company well; during FY21, Home Depot’s total sales grew 14.4% to $151.2 billion.
Atwood’s Ranch & Home, often referred to simply as Atwood’s, is a ranch and farm supply store chain founded in 1960 with headquarters in Enid, Oklahoma. It operates 66 stores in five states: Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
As well as selling farm supplies, Atwood’s – like its competitors – also sells a range of other products, such as clothing, tools, lawn and garden items, automotive supplies, hardware, pet supplies, sporting goods, and firearms.
The company is family-run and has two distribution centers, one in Tyler, Texas, and one in Enid, Oklahoma. Atwood’s operates a chain business strategy using a markup revenue model.
Atwood’s offers online sales and an in-person experience, but it’s clear the company has invested significantly less in its digital strategy than most competitors. It launched an e-commerce website in 2014 using ShopVisible, allowing it to sell B2B and B2C.
The launch of Atwood’s website was an important step forward, but the company still isn’t doing as much as it needs to if it wants to compete with Rural King.
Slow growth isn’t restricted to digital sales, either. Atwood’s seems to lack the ambition to expand the scope of its physical stores, planning just one new location in Hutchinson, Kansas, for 2022.
Nevertheless, Atwood’s revenue is substantial, reaching $316 million in 2021.
Tractor Supply SWOT Analysis
This SWOT analysis explores the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats faced by Tractor Supply.
- Strong presence in the US with stores in many states
- Exceptional customer experience, including free coffee and popcorn
- Diverse portfolio of products with a strategic partnership to ensure continued growth
- Largest operator of rural lifestyle stores in America
- Good understanding of the market thanks to many years of operating
- Effective marketing campaigns and advertising
- Strong distribution network
- Still largely reliant on in-store sales when the trend is toward online shopping
- Brand awareness is limited to certain US states
- Global retailers are more powerful than TSC
- Reliant solely on the US economy and therefore vulnerable to adverse economic changes
- Expand into new markets outside the US
- New technology can be used to improve the digital user experience
- Strategic acquisitions could boost the company’s growth
- Growing demand for TSC products
- Develop and manufacture a series of own-brand products
- Competition from global companies with better brand recognition
- The future of farming and agriculture is uncertain due to climate change
- The rising cost of fuel will impact the distribution network
- The US economy is heading toward a recession
Tractor Supply Competitors Analysis FAQs
Question: Who is Tractor Supply’s biggest competitor?
Answer: In terms of sheer size, Home Depot is Tractor Supply’s biggest competitor; it is the biggest home improvement warehouse chain in the US. However, home improvement supplies account for just a fraction of the products sold by TSC.
Rural King is TSC’s biggest direct competitor because it generated just over $1 billion in revenue in 2021.
Question: Did Tractor Supply ever sell tractors?
Answer: TSC has never sold tractors, but it began by selling parts for them via mail order, which is where the company’s name comes from.
Question: Is Tractor Supply the same as Rural King?
Answer: The two companies are distinct, though they occupy the same retail sector. TSC is bigger than Rural King, with more locations and annual revenue.
Despite the uncertain future of the farming industry, rural lifestyle supply stores are doing well across the board. Sales are up year on year, and customer satisfaction keeps on growing.
Tractor Supply Company is ahead of the competition thanks to its advanced digital strategy and powerful in-store experience. While other businesses have tried to replicate this business model, few have succeeded to the same extent, except Rural King.