Bloomberg Businessweek

Outstanding In Its Field

How Tractor Supply perfected its niche

Some of the best retail theater in the world takes place far from the runways of Paris and the display windows of Fifth Avenue. Twice a year Tractor Supply Co., a chain of 1,900 stores scattered across rural America, trucks in millions of chirping chicks and herds them into pens. The little birds fetch $1.99 each, or $2.99 for those that have been “sexed.”

“Chickens, for us, have absolutely exploded,” says Steve Kinney, manager of 13 Tractor Supply locations.

Last year about 8,200 stores in the U.S. shut their doors for good, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. It’s hard, however, to disrupt a chick, which might not fare so well in a next-day-delivery economy. Niche rural retailers such as Tractor Supply, which sells obscure and often unwieldy products from fencing to llama kibble, have proved resilient. The 80-year-old business has seen sales grow 56 percent in the past five years, to $7.3 billion. Since 2012, Tractor Supply has added 723 locations, and it plans to open 500 more in the

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