Cultural Learnings of Rural America

I came across this Bloomberg Businessweek feature on Tractor Supply*. It reads like a curious anthropological study, where big city journalists make cultural learnings of a primitive society in which people trek to physical stores to buy things. Yuck, haven’t these savages heard of Amazon??

The article describes the customer base as Rural America, backwards folk who need gun safes and log splitters, who use lubricants in the garage instead of the bedroom. Wait a minute — I shop at Tractor Supply! I shopped there even when I lived in Mountain View, because there happens to be a store in Silicon Valley. Granted, it’s the ass-end of Silicon Valley (where 101 meets 152, the highway to Los Banos!), but rural American I am not.

Such intriguing artifacts! What is that peculiar item on the upper left?? Some sort of crude fidget spinner?

I go there because because a 50-pound sack of chicken feed costs twelve dollars and a 20-pound sack of rabbit bedding costs five dollars. Both are available on Amazon, but shipping kills the deal. Even without animals I needed seed for my bird feeder, fertilizer for my lawn, buckets for storage -– stuff that might be relevant to anyone with a backyard, but city people wouldn’t know what one is.

Tractor Supply is good for stuff that’s too cheap to ship. Heck, I went there today to pick up a 6-foot folding table. It would seem that this is a market that’s immune to digital disruption, but all is not well. Says Bloomberg:

When Tractor Supply is confronted with risks, they tend to be tied to the macro economy. Its fortunes can rise and fall on farming operations in rural America and the fluctuating prices of corn, soybeans, and other crops…The escalating trade war with China is shaping up to be a mess for Tractor Supply’s customer base.

Will Beijing’s tariffs prevent soybean farmers from exporting their crop?? I don’t know, but production-scale farmers probably aren’t buying their seed tonnage from a retail store. Gimme a break. Tractor Supply customers are comfortable suburbanites who have the luxury of treating their livestock like pets and their pets like people.

There is another risk though: Whenever I flip through a Tractor Supply circular, I can’t help but notice how *unbearably white* it is. White people… baling hay. White people… mowing a lawn. White people… driving a tractor. It’s almost like opening an Abercrombie catalog, if Abercrombie was in the business of selling coveralls and tack gear. Come to think of it, has anyone heard from Abercrombie & Fitch since 2004? They were sued by the NAACP for discriminating against people of color, and had to pay $40 million to minorities. It’s only a matter of time before diversity warriors storm in and take up this cause; demand that Tractor Supply feature some damn minorities in their catalogs. People of color… pushing a wheelbarrow. People of color… raking muck. People of color… pick—-

Okay never mind.

Tractor Supply is good. Sometimes they send me a coupon for a free Coke from the store fridge.

*Yes, I realize the story is from 3 weeks ago. I’m a bit slow these days.

10 thoughts on “Cultural Learnings of Rural America

  1. A joyous read, but note the sale price for your folding table was “online only.” Aren’t you using Amazon prime to save on shipping?

    1. “Online only” means place the order online, then pick it up in store…
      And Amazon prime shipping is a scam! They jack up their prices to compensate for the shipping costs. The $5 rabbit bedding I buy at Tractor Suppy costs $30 on Amazon. This stuff is literally sawdust that gets thrown out after processing lumber!

      (Tractor Supply listing currently says $5.99, but every few weeks it goes on sale for a dollar off)

      1. Thanks much for the additional education. Sounds like I should put tractor supply on investment watch list. No inference that you are responsible if I buy.

  2. People of color don’t all live in the city. And people of color have money and are willing to spend it. A picture of a person of color on a tractor cost the same as a white person on a tractor.

  3. “Such intriguing artifacts! What is that peculiar item on the upper left?? Some sort of crude fidget spinner?”

    Ha, it’s a caster. Casters have 2 uses: you can fasten four to the bottom of an object to help you roll it around on wheels, or you can use one or more in an adventuring party in many role playing games.

  4. We have a Tractor Supply near our vacation house in Vermont. We love going there. Every Easter they have cute baby chicks and ducks for sale and my Havanese is fascinated by them. I buy blocks of deer food and put them in a field to attract the critters. Plus, you can buy a trendy camouflage hat for $7.00 instead of $50 at Chanel.

    1. Yay! I didn’t know they sold deer food blocks, maybe I should get some to discourage deer from eating my plants. Now, I’m curious — do you buy your dog food at TSC? I think TSC has good growth potential if it can capture the dog/cat market, but I suspect that pet owners would rather take their pets to Petco or Petsmart.

      1. We buy W/D, a prescription dog food only sold by veterinarians. And by walking away from that food when presented to her, our Havanese, Sugar, has over the years trained my wife to entice her to eat by adding supermarket chicken and now cooked hamburger meat to her dish.

        Not that I’m not guilty of bad behavior myself. When looking at a menu in a restaurant, I often order my dinner based on what I think Sugar would like me to bring home as leftovers.

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