Published 1 year ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Kampus Productions/Pexels
A recent survey found that 77% of US adults believe the pandemic has driven people in the country apart. But we’ve also seen how people’s behaviors and interests have changed in ways that demonstrate shared cultural values, regardless of where they live.
The so-called “rural-urban divide” in the US has been a key theme in social
and political discourse in recent years. For better or worse, this idea of two
different Americas has focused attention on how people living in or near cities
are different from people living out in the countryside. Yet, there are
important similarities in how Americans everywhere are choosing to live today.
We’re seeing it firsthand at Tractor Supply
Company: A growing number of Americans, both
country folk and city dwellers, share interests in responsible land stewardship
and sustainable lifestyles.
The COVID-19 pandemic
radically altered the day-to-day behaviors of most of us in the US and changed
our perspectives on the places we choose to live. In 2021, for instance,
one-in-five US adults expressed a preference for living in a city — down from
one-in-four in 2018, according to a Pew Research Center
The pandemic has reshaped and rewritten customer behavior; and it's why we have
seen such a large migration of customers from urban centers to rural and
suburban areas, moving into Tractor Supply's neighborhood.
Sadly, the Pew survey also found that 77 percent of US adults believe the
pandemic has driven people in the country apart. But we’ve also seen how
people’s behaviors and interests have changed in ways that demonstrate shared
cultural values, regardless of where they live. In short, more people are going
outside and remembering how good it feels to exercise or garden in the fresh
air. We’re seeing how important our shared parks and other green
are for recreation and community connection; and we’re learning what it means to
be more resilient in our homes, our industries, and even our personal
At Tractor Supply, we saw evidence of this in the increased sales of numerous
products. Our 2,000-plus stores are located to serve the rural lifestyle needs
of not only rural customers, but also suburban and urban customers who like to
work and play outdoors; so we have a unique perspective on overarching trends.
For instance, the pandemic was the start of an increased demand for
chicks, as more people began
raising their own egg-laying flocks — leading to two record years, with many new
people raising poultry. Seed sales also went up as customers across geographies
began growing more of their own food.
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Over half of our customers (54 percent) grew a garden of some kind in 2021
Nearly all (98 percent) of our customers who planted a garden in 2021 plan
to do so again in 2022
1/3 of customers who did not grow a garden in 2021 plan to start growing a
garden in 2022
Plus, the sale of rain barrels increased — suggesting more customers are tuning
in to the advantages of sustainable water harvesting.
Wanting to learn more about these emerging trends, we commissioned a customer
survey earlier this year that revealed numerous behavior changes that bridge the
rural-urban divide. For example:
Since the pandemic, 2 in 3 people said they have made efforts to live more
Over 40 percent of respondents began growing their own food through backyard
gardening or poultry; and
More than 50 percent started their own "sustainable hobbies" in the last two
At Tractor Supply, we see this as a positive cultural shift, but recognize
there’s still much work to do in helping these trends take root and grow. For
instance, 54 percent of respondents said they think it’s expensive to live
sustainably — the average person estimates the lifestyle costs $11,000 more per
year. Seven in 10 respondents said having a large yard space is mandatory to
live sustainably. And the people who didn’t start sustainable hobbies said it
was too much work or they didn’t know where to begin.
Our role as a relationship retailer is providing guidance and advice to help our
customers overcome these hurdles or misperceptions. We can do this, for
instance, by explaining to customers that our line of battery-powered equipment
produces no direct emissions and is less expensive to operate than gas-powered
tools. We can show people how composting, organic lawn care, rain gardens,
bio-diverse habitats, and other sustainable lifestyle choices can be impactful
even in the tiniest spaces. Plus, by hiring and training local Team Members, we
can speak neighbor-to-neighbor about projects that are simple and easy — such as
recycling batteries or taking advantage of free used-oil disposal at their local
Tractor Supply store. We can make new equipment for a budding farm more
approachable by having more ‘Try Before You Buy’ events, like the one we hosted
for our Greenworks Pro 60V platform launch — where customers are able to see
the equipment in action and ask practical questions about their applications.
We talk a lot about “Life Out Here” as the ethos behind everything we do at
Tractor Supply. Our 2021 sustainability
report is titled Stewards of Life Out Here, because we recognize the important role we must play in helping to
protect the ecosystems on which we and our customers rely for our sustenance,
livelihoods and well-being.
The Pew survey found that about a third of US adults believe it will take more
than two years for their lives and communities to return to how they were before
the coronavirus pandemic. While there’s much to look forward to in that scenario
— including closer connections in communities across the country — we’re working
to make sure that the new, more sustainable lifestyle choices that have emerged
in these tough times are here to stay.
Published Apr 22, 2022 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Hal Lawton is President and CEO of Tractor Supply Company, a role he assumed in January 2020.