AutoZone has reported net sales of $3.7 billion for its third quarter (12 weeks) ended May 8, 2021, an increase of 31.4% from the third quarter of fiscal 2020 (12 weeks). Domestic same store sales, or sales for stores open at least one year, increased 28.9% for the quarter.
For the quarter, gross profit, as a percentage of sales, was 52.4%, a decrease of 118 basis points versus the prior year. The decrease in gross margin was primarily driven by the accelerated growth in the company’s Commercial business and its investment in pricing initiatives.
Operating expenses, as a percentage of sales, was 30.4% versus 35.9% for last year’s quarter. The decrease in operating expenses, as a percentage of sales, was driven by strong sales growth and approximately $75 million in prior year pandemic related expenses, including Emergency Time-Off (“ETO”) for our AutoZoners.
Operating profit increased 63.4% to $803.5 million. Net income for the quarter increased 73.9% over the same period last year to $596.2 million, while diluted earnings per share increased 84.0% to $26.48 per share from $14.39 per share in the year-ago quarter. The increase in net income was driven by strong topline growth and operating expense leverage.
AutoZone repurchased 663,328 shares of its common stock for $900 million during the third quarter, at an average price of $1,357 per share. At the end of the third quarter, the company had $1.3 billion remaining under its current share repurchase authorization.
The company’s inventory increased 5.1% over the same period last year, driven by new stores and improved product assortment. Net inventory, defined as merchandise inventories less accounts payable, on a per store basis, was negative $167 thousand versus negative $56 thousand last year and negative $93 thousand last quarter.
“We are very proud to report another quarter of exceptionally strong same store sales and earnings growth,” said Bill Rhodes, chairman, president and CEO. “The AutoZone team has done a wonderful job of managing, and leading, throughout this pandemic. While our DIY business was again very strong this quarter, our Commercial business’ 44% sales growth stood out as exceptional. The investments we are making in Commercial pricing, service and assortment are strengthening our competitive position in this large, fragmented market. We intend to accelerate our company’s historical Commercial growth rate as we increase our penetration in this market. While we understand sales trends will slow, we must work diligently during this fourth quarter to maintain the share gains we have achieved. As always, we cannot take anything for granted, but we remain excited about the ongoing sales opportunities in front of us. Additionally, we remain committed to investing appropriately in a safe and productive environment for our customers and AutoZoners. As we opportunistically invest capital in our business, we remain committed to our disciplined approach of increasing operating earnings and cash flow, and of utilizing our balance sheet and capital effectively.”
During the quarter ended May 8, 2021, AutoZone opened 25 new stores and closed one store in the U.S. and opened seven stores in Mexico and one store in Brazil. As of May 8, 2021, the Company had 5,975 stores in the U.S., 635 in Mexico and 47 in Brazil for a total store count of 6,657.