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Tractor Supply Co. is racing toward its goal of 800 new locations as it opens stores at a fast pace.
Tractor Supply, by far the largest operator of rural-oriented retail stores in the U.S., opened 23 locations in its just-completed third quarter and remains on track to open 80 this year.
The company already operates 1,748 Tractor Supply outlets and another 181 Petsense locations which were purchased for $116 million two years ago.
In its 2017 annual report filed last February, the company said it had identified about 800 “opportunities” for new Tractor Supply stores and up to 1,000 for Petsense.
The vast majority of its stores are in both suburban locations near metro areas and rural communities.
The company leases more than 90 percent of its store sites, with 40 percent of its stores in freestanding buildings and 60 percent in shopping centers.
Competitors are also opening stores in a steadily growing rural home goods market, but at a much more measured pace.
The rural home goods market generated $14 billion in revenue last year and has grown about 2.6 percent annually the past five years.
Orschein Farm & Home operates about 170 locations in 11 states, recently expanding into Texas.
Another company, Rural King, has more than 100 stores in 13 states and is opening on average about 10 per year.
Tractor Supply’s target market consists of commercial and hobbyist farmers, horse owners, ranchers and both rural and suburban homeowners with pets, livestock, chickens and gardens.
Tractor Supply and its competitors are taking advantage of a growing number of small farmers and people living in rural areas.
The United States has an estimated 2.05 million farms, according to the Department of Agriculture, totaling about 910 million acres.
Newhall said about 100,000 of those farms produce 80 percent of all the food in the country, but smaller farms account for the rest, giving Tractor Supply and its competitors a strong customer base.
Though rural retail operators sell items specific to farmers and tradesmen, most also offer many of the same items consumers can buy at Walmart, including clothing, lawn and garden tools, toys and pet supplies.