At Tractor Supply, new chief tells similar story

For the past several years, whenever Tractor Supply's CEO Jim Wright spoke about his company's earnings, he usually described a strong performance in a challenging environment — a 1,000-plus-store little engine that could.

Last month, his replacement, Greg Sandfort, picked up where Wright left off, pointing to a 10.8% fourth-quarter sales increase and a 24% increase in net income. In his first earnings call as CEO, Sandfort ran analysts through the Brentwood, Tenn.-based retailer's challenges and opportunities.

The conservative customer:

"We have seen very little change from recent quarters regarding our customers' purchasing behaviors. Our consumers are spending conservatively, and they are seeking out compelling values. Purchases are being driven by necessity and are taking place much closer to need."

The newness factor:

"In the first part of the year, we make most of our hard planogram changes. And we touch between 30% and 40% of the store. The second piece is what we do in the center corridor and on the outside of the store. Our team has done a wonderful job of bringing probably 5