For brands that want to appeal to customers migrating to the Next Frontier, you can either follow them there… or you can greet them when they arrive. Retailer Tractor Supply Company seems poised to do the latter.
A drive across America’s Heartland will take you through forests. Over mountains and rivers. And across endless stretches of farmland. Punctuating these open spaces… are the small towns that once defined Americana.
As jobs and young people fled Middle America, many rural communities fell on hard times… marked by empty businesses and plummeting home prices. But the quiet, simpler lifestyle that these areas have traditionally offered remains.
And millennials just might be leading a migration back to the country.
Where Tractor Supply Company is waiting to welcome them.
Pandemic spurs a shift
Many audiences only became aware of Tractor Supply Company in the last 10-15 years or so… when the brand began advertising on a national scale. But, in fact, the company has been in business for more than 80 years… making them one of America’s oldest retailers.
While their growth had been steady through the decades, the decline of the American small town posed a real threat to their business. With fewer and fewer homeowners living in the sparsely density areas they served, the company might have faced some tough decisions in the coming years.
Then the pandemic happened — and with it came an exodus — from large cities to the suburbs, exurbs and rural areas. This departure was led by millennials… who coincidentally were experiencing key milestones in their lives. Especially buying homes. And starting families.
When they arrived in their new hometowns, these millennials needed a retailer who could serve all their needs — from tools to yard equipment to hardware. Conveniently, Tractor Supply Company was already there.
As a result, during a period when many non-differentiated retailers struggled, Tractor Supply Company enjoyed record growth in 2021.
And while the migration to the country may eventually slow down… the company expects home starts — on affordable land — to continue at a steady pace and promises continued growth.
True to their roots, but evolving
To solidify their position as the retailer of choice for the rural lifestyle, Tractor Supply Company initiated a clever ad campaign that essentially rolls out the welcome mat for their new neighbors from the cities.
This messaging is so smart — because it speaks volumes in a short, 30-second spot. In the first few seconds, the campaign literally invites people who have moved away from densely populated urban settings — to discover a different, enduring way of life. That implies the retailer has always been there (because they have), and that they’re a trusted resource for the day-to-day essentials of country living.
But the best part is their “Life out Here” tagline. It instantly connects to the sense of community — and fellowship — that people feel when they live in small towns. It lets them know that the retailer understands what’s important to them.
All the while, the ad’s visuals depict the idyllic country lifestyle. Growing your own vegetables. Kids feeding chickens. Families living in wide open spaces.
But as smart as the ad campaign is, it’s Tractor Supply Company’s ability to evolve — while staying faithful to their roots — that has made them so successful.
The retailer could have tried to move into more suburban areas and large cities, going head-to-head with the likes of The Home Depot and Lowe’s. Instead, they decided to continue serving the people in their own back yard.
But that doesn’t mean they haven’t evolved. As the name might indicate, Tractor Supply Company started out as a retailer that served the agricultural consumer… originally, providing pretty much everything needed to run a farm.
However, the company’s offerings have changed to reflect the needs of a new breed of consumer. So, along with pitchforks and work boots, you can also buy battery-operated lawn equipment, pet supplies and outdoor sporting goods.
Time will tell how significant the shift to America’s small towns and rural communities will continue to be. If current trends are any indication, millennials will maintain this migration… celebrating remote working models and the freedom to enjoy a lifestyle they couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago.
And Tractor Supply Company will continue to be there to welcome them home.