Autozone FY 2Q17 Earnings Call Notes

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William C. Rhodes

Weather and tax refunds were headwinds

“After Christmas, the weather was much more mild with minimal snow and ice in the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. During this period, our sales growth moderated. Then, as noted above, in the last three weeks when we began lapping the beginning of last year’s tax refund season, our same-store sales declined fairly significantly. Late last year, the IRS announced that, in an effort to combat fraudulent tax refund filings, they would be delaying the issuance of refunds associated with returns claiming the earned income tax credit. Unfortunately, the timing of refunds typically begins in the last two or three weeks of our second quarter, and this year most of the refunds were delayed until after our quarter concluded.”

Rising operating costs

“Thank you, Bill. This quarter, our sales and profitability performance were not up to our standard. Much of the challenge was macro in terms of delayed IRS refunds, but we have also incurred rising operating costs, which include our initiatives. At the end of the day, we have had a remarkable track record of success and we will continue to focus on optimizing both short and long-term performance.”

No border adjustment

“First, following the election, the border-adjustable tax has become a hot topic. As I’m sure many of you know, I was part of a contingent of Retail Industry Leaders Association CEOs who went to Washington, D.C. and met with President Trump, members of his administration, and various members of Congress to share our perspective on the potential harmful effects of this proposal. While we are concerned about the impact on retail business models, we are more concerned about the ramifications for hard working American families due to likely significant inflation that would ensue. Our key message is that we certainly support a pro-growth agenda, including corporate and individual tax reform, but we stress the importance of a thoughtful approach to tax reform to avoid any unintended consequences.”

Bill Giles

Macro driving trends

“Switching over to macro trends, during the quarter, nationally unleaded gas prices started out at $2.16 a gallon and ended the quarter at $2.31 a gallon, a slight increase. Last year, gas prices decreased per gallon during the second quarter starting out at $2.09 and ending at $1.72. While prices at the pump are higher today than they were last year at this time, we continue to feel the absolute price of $2.31 a gallon is not high enough amount to change the driving behavior of Americans as we continue to see miles driven increasing. We also recognize that the impact of miles driven on cars over seven years old, the current average, is much different than on newer cars in terms of wear and tear. Miles driven increased 1.6% in October, 4.2% in November, and 0.5% in December. And for all of 2016, miles driven were up 2.8%. The other statistic we highlight is the number of seven-year-old and older vehicles on the road, which continues to trend at our industry’s favor”