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VOL. 131 | NO. 243 | Wednesday, December 7, 2016

AutoZone Revs Up Net Income By 8 Percent

By Andy Meek

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The first significant cold snap of the season is at hand, something that might leave most people resigned to the corresponding inconveniences but nonetheless excites AutoZone chairman, president and CEO Bill Rhodes.

AutoZone employee Terrence Richardson helps a customer at the company’s store in Marion, Arkansas. The company reported a nearly 8 percent increase in net income for its fiscal first quarter, AutoZone announced Tuesday, Dec. 6.

(Submitted by AutoZone)

During the company’s fiscal first quarter earnings presentation Tuesday, Dec. 6, he mentioned the imminent arrival of colder weather and was “excited to see what that will mean to us” as one of a few tailwinds for AutoZone’s business. Colder weather, of course, means more opportunities for car parts replacements and other maintenance needs, which means more traffic into AutoZone stores.

That existing customer traffic helped propel the Memphis-based auto parts retailer to a nearly 8 percent increase in net income for the quarter over the same period in 2015 – to $278.1 million – the company reported Tuesday. At domestic stores open for at least a year, sales were up almost 2 percent for the quarter, and the company hit $2.5 billion in net sales for the quarter ended Nov. 19, up 3.4 percent from the year-ago period.

AutoZone has a few trends working in its favor at the moment, executives told analysts. The winter months have been a bit mild so far, but they’re expecting that to change soon. AutoZone chief financial officer Bill Giles also pointed out that the number of vehicles currently on the road that are seven years and older continues to trend in the industry’s favor – older vehicles being more likely to break down or need repairs and replacement parts.

Still, “we manage this business focused on both short- and long-term performance,” Rhodes told analysts, a theme Raymond James analyst Dan Wewer used to kick off his note to clients about the quarter’s performance for AutoZone.

AutoZone delivered better-than-expected earnings per share growth during the quarter, he wrote in his commentary distributed immediately after AutoZone’s presentation ended. “Further,” he added, “we are pleased to see commercial sales growth beginning to accelerate, driven by ongoing initiatives to drive higher parts availability.”

Wewer added that Raymond James’ long-term bullishness on the company “remains intact.”

Among the quarter’s other highlights:

AutoZone’s diluted earnings per share increased 13 percent to $9.36, up from $8.29 per share in the year-ago quarter. That represents AutoZone’s 41st consecutive quarter of double-digit earnings per share growth.

Also during the quarter, AutoZone bought back 478,000 shares of its common stock for $363 million. And the company had $783 million remaining under its current share repurchase authorization at the end of the quarter.

The company also opened 16 new stores and relocated two stores in the U.S., in addition to opening five new stores in Mexico. As of Nov. 19, AutoZone had a total store count of 5,835.

As far as what’s to come, Rhodes told analysts the company will continue opening new stores at a steady clip in 2017 and also sees “great growth opportunities” outside the U.S.

The company has two distribution centers under construction in the U.S. and is making what Rhodes described as a “significant investment” in technology upgrades to capture customer data across shopping platforms.

It’s part of what AutoZone executives described as a general push to improve the customer experience across all channels – stores, mobile devices and the web.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 207 263 9,865
MORTGAGES 197 246 10,862
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 12 1,301
BUILDING PERMITS 138 686 21,643
BANKRUPTCIES 0 256 6,219
BUSINESS LICENSES 29 93 4,032
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 25 85 2,977
MARRIAGE LICENSES 19 71 2,092