AutoZone powers through difficult economy

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The nation’s largest automotive parts retailer announced another quarter of record results in which earnings per share advanced nearly 36% to $3.34 on same-store sales that grew 7.1% for the quarter ended Feb.12. The earnings per share performance was well above the $3.06 analysts were expecting as was the same-store sales figure which analysts had forecast would rise 6.3%.The company’s gross margins increased to 50.9% from 50%, operating costs were essentially flat and overall net income increased 20% to $148 million as the company ended the quarter with 4,425 stores in the United States and 249 stores in Mexico.

“This marks the ninth consecutive quarter of 20% plus growth in earnings per share and our eighteenth consecutive quarter of double digit growth,” said chairman, president and CEO Bill Rhodes. “We continued our focus on improving parts coverage, hiring, retaining, and training the best automotive parts professionals, and growing our commercial business.

The company’s return on invested capital reached a new all time high of 29.3%, according to Rhodes, who asserted the company will, “remain committed to our disciplined approach of growing operating earnings while efficiently utilizing our capital.”

The improvement in gross margins resulted from improved sourcing of the company’s Duralast brand and increased penetration of that brand in the product mix. Meanwhile, the company noted that expenses benefitted from improved leverage of store operating costs that resulted from higher sales volumes.