Farm Food Facts

Tractor Supply Company’s Sustainability Practices and Engagement with USFRA

July 13, 2022 USFRA Episode 119
Tractor Supply Company’s Sustainability Practices and Engagement with USFRA
Farm Food Facts
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Farm Food Facts
Tractor Supply Company’s Sustainability Practices and Engagement with USFRA
Jul 13, 2022 Episode 119
USFRA

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In today’s episode we explore how the almost $13 billion retailer – Tractor Supply, with over 2,000 stores across 49 states, is a leader in working with farmers and ranchers - and committed to the goal of net zero operations. Tractor Supply’s mission statement is: “To work hard, have fun and make money by providing legendary service and great products at everyday low prices”. Our guest is Mary Winn Pilkington, senior vice president investor relations and public relations at Tractor Supply Company. Before coming to Tractor Supply in 2018, Mary Winn held senior positions at Dollar General, Pepsi Bottling Group and International Paper.

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Send us a Text Message.

In today’s episode we explore how the almost $13 billion retailer – Tractor Supply, with over 2,000 stores across 49 states, is a leader in working with farmers and ranchers - and committed to the goal of net zero operations. Tractor Supply’s mission statement is: “To work hard, have fun and make money by providing legendary service and great products at everyday low prices”. Our guest is Mary Winn Pilkington, senior vice president investor relations and public relations at Tractor Supply Company. Before coming to Tractor Supply in 2018, Mary Winn held senior positions at Dollar General, Pepsi Bottling Group and International Paper.

Phil:

Welcome to Farm Food Facts, the webcast and podcast of the US farmers and ranchers in action. In today's episode, we'll explore how the almost$13 billion retailer Tractor Supply with over 2000 stores across 49 states is a leader in working with farmers and ranchers and committed to the goal of net zero operations Tractor Supply's mission statement is to work hard, have fun and make money by providing legendary service and great products at everyday low prices. Our guest is Mary Winn Pilkington, senior vice president investor relations and public relations at Tractor Supply. Before coming to Tractor Supply in 2018, Mary Winn held senior positions at Dollar General, Pepsi bottling group and international paper, Mary Winn, welcome to Farm Food Facts.

Mary Winn:

Thank you, Phil. Glad to be with you in the group today.

Phil:

So tell us, how is Tractor Supply uniquely positioned as the leader in the rural lifestyle retail store industry and supporting farmers and ranchers and helping them to enhance sustainability practices?

Mary Winn:

You know, Phil, we are so honored to be talking about the work that Tractor Supply does every day. And you mentioned it in your opening comments with 2000 stores across the United States of 48,000 team members who are passionate about life out here. And what we consider ourselves to be is really a relationship retailer, such that when you come to Tractor Supply, we don't wanna just know your name. We wanna know what type of animals you're taking care of, what type of land you have that you need maintenance of and importantly, um, your dog's name. You know, I always say Tractor Supply is my dog's favorite store to go to, but we really wanna be a member of that community. And, you know, each of our stores has really, um, serves as a community hub in many ways and whatever degree of sustainability, an individual wants to live, you know, we can help service that. So think about from what degree of organics or sustainability you might have, you might be composting, you might go all the way to rain barrels for water collection. You know, we growing, having honey bee and hives for pollinators or even growing a pollinator garden, you know, it's just a whole continuum of where we might be. You know, we don't serve directly the production farmer, but the way I like to think about it is we really help them take care of that property around their home and, and that what their passions are. And so it's an important role that we play. We've been as, for nearly 85 years, we've been helping take care of these small town communities and also on our sustainability journey, more formally for nearly 15 years or so. And just this April, we released our most comprehensive stewardship report, which we titled stewards of life out here. And that's really the way we think about it. And life out here could be for somebody who's a core farm in ranch. You know, you might have 10 acres or more, multiple types of animals, um, that you're caring for, or you may be as I like to say as well, your heart is in the country, but your feet can be in the suburbs. And so that country suburban that, um, maybe has a smaller piece of land, but they think of it as out here. And it's really, in some ways it can be aspirational or be a mindset, but we hire our customers. And so they know this lifestyle and they really, um, when our customers come in to solve a problem, they can help take care of it.

Phil:

So Mary, when obviously being around 85 years, having, you know, over 2000 stores, uh, it's a remarkable success. How has Tractor Supply', retail stores evolved over the past five or 10 years? Have they changed or they the same way that they were, you know, in the mid seventies?

Mary Winn:

Wow, that's, that's great Phil. And I'd encourage everybody to get out and visit us today because we have changed and we've changed a lot. Um, even over the last two years, we're undergoing a massive transformation of the company and doing what we call project fusion remodels of our stores. And by 2026, we anticipate having 100% of our chain in this new, very customer centric style of a store that works on the adjacencies of product categories, what product categories are going in, um, and really a very contemporary shopping experience with light boxes and imagery of the lifestyle. And it's brings, I'll give you a couple of examples of what we've done with these store remodels. For instance, we have brought our customer service desk from midway back in the store to the very front of the store and consolidated that with where our cashiers are. And by doing that, we picked up 300 square feet of selling space. And so that frees up space to put, um, products could be relevant to that market area in, in the stores. And so, um, it's a massive transformation of our store base. And in addition to that, across 60 to 70% of our stores, we are adding garden centers. So these are about 3,500 to 4,000 square feet garden centers, which is the number one product category that our customers tell us that they shop in, that we do not satisfy their needs. And so we've got a great assortment of life, plant shrubs, um, anything you need to build a garden and it's a differentiated type of product assortment. I like to say that it's factorized so it's really for the lifestyle. And so it brings together things that are, you know, shade trees for your animals, what you might do on a fence row, but really a focus on fruit and vegetables to have a focus on a garden. And so it's, um, it's an exciting time at Tractor with those, as well as, you know, the digital seamless experience that we have customers today don't care whether they're shopping, bricks and mortar, or whether they're shopping online, they want a friction list, seamless shopping experience, and that's what we're striving to provide for our customers.

Phil:

So Mary, when I'm gonna start a, uh, you know, a, a, uh, list of people that I know here in Santa Monica, California, and we're gonna demand that you bring a tractor to, uh, to Santa Monica, uh, one of, one of the 2040 commitments that the company has made is to achieve net zero emissions across all your operations. How are you doing against that goal? And you know, what, what should we be looking for next?

Mary Winn:

Yeah, it's a very ambitious goal, but we think it's important given the nature of our customers and how, and team members and communities, how important sustainability is. And the net zero goal is, is our commitment to that. And as part of that, it's, it's truly a journey and it's a continuous journey and it's, while we're we announced our goals in September of 2021. So we're still in early days of this, but, you know, we are very focused on controlling what we can control and our operations out of the gate first. So you can think about things like building design, um, daylight harvesting, as well as solar panels on our distribution centers, you know, EC, um, EV carving stations at our stores, um, we're testing electric forklifts. You know, there's just a lot of different things that go into this, and it is important to note that that is an intensity goal. So even as we open new stores up, it is still, um, you know, what our goal is, even as we do continue to grow store footage, square footage, we're opening about 75 to 80 new stores a year, but it really, um, starts with the heart of who we are. And that is, you know, that commitment to that li life out here. And our customers are so passionate about their land, that they don't view that they are owners of the land. Primarily they are stewards for the next generation and, you know, our team members want to work for a company, um, that has purpose. And I think customers vote with their, with their wallets of where they wanna shop. So altogether, you know, it's a, it's a great, um, place for us to be, you know, we'll continue to look for innovative ways. We're working with the sustainability consortium as well, because we can't go this alone. It, it definitely does take a lot of, um, working with our vendor partners, as well as our own operations to achieve these goals.

Phil:

I'm glad you bring that up because when you look at that goal and, and these targets, you've got to work with vendors, other key stakeholders across the entire value chain to pull it off. Why is that so important?

Mary Winn:

Well, nothing's done in a vacuum, right? Phil it's, it's very important that, you know, you think about if we can work together with our vendors, it's just that, that supply chain, um, how we take out, um, you know, not only take out cost, but also how do we have the most efficient products as a part of that as well? And so I think, you know, when we think about things like products, like Greenworks, um, is a great example that it, you know, it's cordless battery operated and you can, today you can get a battery operated, zero turn mower, but I think will mow north of two acres on a charge. And so that's an impressive, um, kind, kind of technology innovation. And it's really a pro customer that we have that wants that quality. And this was a product that we felt could meet that quality and the demands of the lifestyle that our customer, um, needs when they're taking care of their land as an example. But, you know, you know, innovation and, um, comes across the value chain, I believe. And we all can learn something from others. And, you know, we like our vendors, you know, can be at different stages of where they are in that, in that journey as well. But I do think that the sustainability consortium helps as well. And it helps us work with other re um, retailers that are members of that, because we're all trying to, um, solve this together as an industry as well.

Phil:

So what have you learned and what have been some of the obstacles in the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and frankly, to meet that goal of net zero operations?

Mary Winn:

Yeah, it's it, we given that we're early in the journey, it is, um, and we've got a lot of work behi ahead of us. We're investing heavily to do this as well. So we are building three new distribution centers over the course of the next five years, and all of those will be lead gold certified. And so they'll have solar on their roof, I think, on a combined basis over the next two years or so, we're investing a hundred million behind our initiatives in this area. So, you know, it's, it's the right thing for us to do for the long term. And we're putting that, um, emphasis at, because that's where we're making these investments as well.

Phil:

So Mary, when, when you look at this journey that you're on to reduce greenhouse gas emissions working towards net op zero operations, what have been the biggest learnings and the biggest challenges in your efforts,

Mary Winn:

You know, it's a big issue feel, and it's an, an issue that we won't solve alone. And so that probably adds some complexity to it and belonging to organizations like the sustainability consortium, but also working with other retail partners through the national retail Federation and also RLA, but also coming together with the us F R a as well is a great example of how we can come together, be stronger together. So tackle big issues and, you know, do what's right for the planet, do what's right by all of our key stakeholders as well.

Phil:

So look into your crystal ball. What does a tractor supply store look like in five years from now?

Mary Winn:

Well, it's very exciting to think about that. You know, we'll be a very different store across 100% of our chain as with this project fusion that provides that contemporary shopping experience for the customers that seamless digital, um, interaction with our app and being able to have, um, more technology in our stores that make life easier for our team members, as well as, um, the shopping experience together. So I think, you know, you'll will be as relevant to the lifestyle. This is a lifestyle that has been around for decades and decades shopping at tractor supply. And so I think it's, um, just continues to be an exciting place to shop. It's a fun shopping experience, and we're committed to being a part of the communities we call home.

Phil:

So tell me a secret, tell me some dirt here. What's been the strangest thing that you've ever seen happen in a tractor supply store. I mean, for me, I would imagine that, you know, somebody, you know, brings their, their pigs with'em to go shopping, but what's been the strangest thing that you've seen.

Mary Winn:

Well, you know, it's fun to get out to our stores. I absolutely love getting out and visiting with customers when we get to tour stores. And then I have the store just right. A couple of miles from my house that I call my Tractor Supply store. And, you know, we have 600 plus pet washes at our, across our 2000 stores. And we've seen people bring Ys in to visit Tractor Supply, walk through with their yaks. Yep. And Lamas and camels and people have ridden their horses in, um, you know, people bring their show pigs, um, in to get a pet wash. You name it. If it's on, if it's on the leash and is contained, the pet is welcome to come to Tractor supply. So there's a lot of fun things that we see on that, you know, we do some really unique and fun things at Tractor Supply. Um, in October, we're gonna have farmers markets across all of our stores and, um, celebrate the harvest time. So it's, you know, our stores are just, um, a great retail theater that make it fun to bring the family out and shop. I think about chick days, we sell baby chicks, a couple of times throughout the year. And that's always a really fun time to be in Tractor Supply.

Phil:

Well, Mary, when congratulations here's to the next 85 years. And thank you for joining us today on farm food facts,

Mary Winn:

A pleasure, Phil, thanks for having me. And I hope you get a chance to get to Tractor Supply. Soon.

Phil:

I will. For more about all food and agriculture, please visit us farmers and ranchers.org. Also be sure to visit us on and Instagram at farmers and ranchers as well as on Twitter and LinkedIn at S R a until next time.