SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
Annual Report pursuant to section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934
For the fiscal year ended
Transition report pursuant to section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934
For the transition period from ______ to ______.
Commission file number
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
incorporation or organization)
(Address of principal executive offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code : (
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of Each Class
Name of Each Exchange on which Registered
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ◻
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter periods that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Accelerated filer ◻
Non-accelerated filer ◻
Smaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.◻
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates computed by reference to the price at which the common equity was last sold, or the average bid and asked price of such common equity, as of the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter was $
The number of shares of Common Stock outstanding as of October 18, 2021, was
Documents Incorporated By Reference
Portions of the definitive Proxy Statement to be filed within 120 days of August 28, 2021, pursuant to Regulation 14A under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for the Annual Meeting of Stockholders to be held December 15, 2021, are incorporated by reference into Part III.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Certain statements contained in this annual report constitute forward-looking statements that are subject to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements typically use words such as “believe,” “anticipate,” “should,” “intend,” “plan,” “will,” “expect,” “estimate,” “project,” “positioned,” “strategy,” “seek,” “may,” “could” and similar expressions. These are based on assumptions and assessments made by our management in light of experience and perception of historical trends, current conditions, expected future developments and other factors that we believe to be appropriate. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, including without limitation: product demand; energy prices; weather; competition; credit market conditions; cash flows; access to available and feasible financing; future stock repurchases; the impact of recessionary conditions; consumer debt levels; changes in laws or regulations; risks associated with self-insurance; war and the prospect of war, including terrorist activity; the impact of public health issues, such as the ongoing global coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic; inflation; the ability to hire, train and retain qualified employees; construction delays; the compromising of confidentiality, availability or integrity of information, including due to cyber-attacks; historic growth rate sustainability; downgrade of our credit ratings; damage to our reputation; challenges in international markets; failure or interruption of our information technology systems; origin and raw material costs of suppliers; inventory availability; disruption in our supply chain; impact of tariffs; anticipated impact of new accounting standards; and business interruptions. Certain of these risks and uncertainties are discussed in more detail in the “Risk Factors” section contained in Item 1A under Part 1 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended August 28, 2021, and these Risk Factors should be read carefully. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and actual results, developments and business decisions may differ from those contemplated by such forward-looking statements, and events described above and in the “Risk Factors” could materially and adversely affect our business. However, it should be understood that it is not possible to identify or predict all such risks and other factors that could affect these forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date made. Except as required by applicable law, we undertake no obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Item 1. Business
AutoZone, Inc. (“AutoZone,” the “Company,” “we,” “our” or “us”) is the leading retailer, and a leading distributor, of automotive replacement parts and accessories in the Americas. We began operations in 1979 and at August 28, 2021, operated 6,051 stores in the United States (“U.S.”), 664 stores in Mexico and 52 stores in Brazil. Each store carries an extensive product line for cars, sport utility vehicles, vans and light trucks, including new and remanufactured automotive hard parts, maintenance items, accessories and non-automotive products. At August 28, 2021, in 5,179 of our domestic stores, we also had a commercial sales program that provides commercial credit and prompt delivery of parts and other products to local, regional and national repair garages, dealers, service stations and public sector accounts. We also have commercial programs in all stores in Mexico and Brazil. We also sell the ALLDATA brand automotive diagnostic, repair and shop management software through www.alldata.com. Additionally, we sell automotive hard parts, maintenance items, accessories and non-automotive products through www.autozone.com, and our commercial customers can make purchases through www.autozonepro.com. We also provide product information on our Duralast branded products through www.duralastparts.com. We do not derive revenue from automotive repair or installation services.
Human Capital Resources
We believe the foundation of our success is our culture, which defines how our employees (“AutoZoners”) take care of customers. Each AutoZoner works hard to Live the Pledge, share their passion for WOW! Customer Service and Go the Extra Mile every day to continue building and growing AutoZone for our customers.
As of August 28, 2021, we employed approximately 100,000 AutoZoners, approximately 62 percent of whom were employed full-time and the remaining 38 percent were employed part-time. About 90 percent of our AutoZoners were employed in stores or in direct field supervision, approximately 6 percent in distribution centers and approximately 4 percent in store support and other functions. Included in the above numbers are approximately 12,000 persons employed in our international operations. We have never experienced any material labor disruption, do not have any collective bargaining agreements and believe that relations with our AutoZoners are good.
Training & Development
We have a number of different types of jobs and career opportunities. While many of our AutoZoners follow more traditional career paths (e.g., part-time to full-time sales, store manager, district manager, regional manager, vice president), we encourage cross-functional development and support of AutoZoners as they expand their career into other departments and fields of interest. Many members of our senior leadership team have held positions in two or more areas of the business.
The AutoZone Pledge and Values drive our success and foster a strong, unique culture of teamwork and customer service. We encourage the recognition of AutoZoners for a variety of accomplishments, such as going above and beyond to deliver Trustworthy Advice and WOW! Customer Service, taking initiative to prevent incidents and injuries, making contributions to help detect or report internal or external theft or providing significant service to help others. Whether they work in our stores, distribution centers, support centers or travel to support our customers and business, we believe AutoZoners everywhere should be recognized for their efforts and outstanding performance. We also recognize AutoZoners for their years of service to the organization and our customers.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (“DEI”)
“Embraces Diversity” is one of our Values, and we have made great strides to lay a proper foundation for our DEI initiatives. With the oversight and support of a cross-functional Diversity Council and DEI Steering Committee, our DEI efforts influence and inform many parts of our human capital management function including talent acquisition, retention, professional development and workforce management. Our first business resource group (“BRG”) was established in 2014 (AutoZone Women’s Initiative). Since then, four other BRGs now support AutoZoners who share common interests or backgrounds and have a mission to contribute their voices, time and talent to helping AutoZoners succeed and grow in their careers.
Health and Safety
We are committed to providing a safe working and shopping environment for our AutoZoners and customers. Aligned with our values, we strive to continually monitor our working and shopping environment to keep our AutoZoners and customers as safe as possible. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to invest in supplies for the protection of our AutoZoners and our customers and increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting our stores. We also provided Emergency Time-Off benefit enhancements for both full-time and part-time AutoZoners and a one-time financial incentive for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. As the effects of COVID-19 continue to evolve, we are closely monitoring the changing situation and complying with public health guidance.
Additional information about our human capital resources can be found in our most recent Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) Report, which is available on our website. Our CSR Report is not, and will not be deemed to be, a part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K or incorporated by reference into any of our other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“the SEC”).
At August 28, 2021, our stores were in the following locations:
Total Domestic stores
Substantially all stores are based on standard store formats, resulting in generally consistent appearance, merchandising and product mix. Approximately 90% to 99% of each store’s square footage is selling space. In our satellite stores, approximately 40% to 50% of our space is dedicated to hard parts inventory, while our hub stores and mega hubs have 70% to 85% of their space utilized for hard parts. The hard parts inventory area is generally fronted by counters or pods that run the depth or length of the store, dividing the hard parts area from the remainder of the store. The remaining selling space contains displays of maintenance, accessories and non-automotive items.
We believe our stores are “destination stores,” generating their own traffic rather than relying on traffic created by adjacent stores. Therefore, we situate most stores on major thoroughfares with easy access and good parking.
Store Personnel and Training
We provide on-the-job training as well as formal training programs, including an annual national sales meeting with related cascading meetings at our distribution centers, regional offices and stores; store meetings on specific sales and product topics; standardized computer-based training to support culture, safety, salesmanship, compliance and product and job knowledge; and several specialist, vendor and third-party programs to support learning and development in areas requiring technical expertise and specific job knowledge. All domestic AutoZoners are encouraged to complete our in-house product knowledge program and Parts Expert certification, which is developed in partnership with our key suppliers. Training is supplemented with frequent store visits by management. Advanced leadership training is an additional area of investment that is used to deepen bench strength and support succession planning.
Store managers, commercial sales managers and managers at various levels across the organization receive financial incentives through performance-based bonuses. In addition, our growth has provided opportunities for the promotion of qualified AutoZoners. We believe these opportunities are important to attract, motivate and retain high quality AutoZoners.
All store support functions are centralized in our store support centers located in Memphis, Tennessee; Monterrey, Mexico; Chihuahua, Mexico and Sao Paulo, Brazil. We believe that this centralization enhances consistent execution of our merchandising and marketing strategies at the store level, while reducing expenses and cost of sales.
All of our stores have Z-net, our proprietary electronic catalog that enables our AutoZoners to efficiently look up the parts that our customers need and to provide complete job solutions, advice and information for customer vehicles. Z-net provides parts information based on the year, make, model and engine type of a vehicle and also tracks inventory availability at the store, at other nearby stores and through special order. The Z-net display screens are placed on the hard parts counter or pods, where both the AutoZoner and customer can view the screen.
Our stores utilize our computerized proprietary Point-of-Sale System, which includes bar code scanning and point-of-sale data collection terminals. Our proprietary Store Management System provides administrative assistance, as well as enhanced merchandising information and improved inventory control. We believe the Point-of-Sale System also enhances customer service through faster processing of transactions, while the Store Management System provides simplified warranty and product return procedures.
Our commercial sales program operates in a highly fragmented market, and we are a leading distributor of automotive parts and other products to local, regional and national repair garages, dealers, service stations and public sector accounts in the Americas. As a part of the domestic store program, we offer credit and delivery to our customers, as well as online ordering through www.autozonepro.com or through the AutoZone Pro smartphone application. Through our hub stores, we offer a greater range of parts and products desired by professional technicians. We have dedicated sales teams focused on independent repair shops as well as national, regional and public sector commercial accounts.
The following table reflects our location development during the past five fiscal years:
|(1)||26 Interamerican Motor Corporation (“IMC”) branches sold on April 4, 2018.|
We believe expansion opportunities exist in markets we do not currently serve, as well as in markets where we can achieve a larger presence. We undertake substantial research prior to entering new markets. The most important criteria for opening a new store are the projected future profitability and the ability to achieve our required investment hurdle rate. Key factors in selecting new site and market locations for stores include population, demographics, vehicle profile, customer buying trends, commercial businesses, number and strength of competitors’ stores and the cost of real estate. In reviewing the vehicle profile, we also consider the number of vehicles that are seven years old and older, or “our kind of vehicles”; these vehicles are generally no longer under the original manufacturers’ warranties and require more maintenance and repair than newer vehicles. We seek to open new stores in high visibility sites in high traffic locations within or contiguous to existing market areas and attempt to cluster development in markets in a relatively short period of time. In addition to continuing to lease or develop our own locations, we evaluate and may make strategic acquisitions.
Marketing and Merchandising Strategy
We are dedicated to providing customers with superior service and trustworthy advice as well as quality automotive parts and products at a great value in conveniently located, well-designed stores. Key elements of this strategy are:
Customer service is the most important element in our marketing and merchandising strategy, which is based upon consumer marketing research. We emphasize that our AutoZoners should always put customers first by providing prompt, courteous service and trustworthy advice. Our electronic parts catalog assists in the selection of parts as well as identifying any associated warranties offered by us or our vendors. We sell automotive hard parts, maintenance items, accessories and non-automotive parts through www.autozone.com, for pick-up in store or to be shipped directly to a customer’s home or business, with next day delivery covering approximately 82% of the U.S. population. Additionally, we offer a smartphone application that provides customers with store locations, driving directions, operating hours, product availability, the ability to purchase products and other information.
We also provide specialty tools through our suite of free services. Through our Loan-A-Tool program customers can borrow a specialty tool, such as a steering wheel puller, for which a do-it-yourself (“DIY”) customer or a repair shop would have little or no use other than for a single job. AutoZoners also provide free diagnostic and related services, including check engine light readings through our AutoZone Fix Finder service, testing of starters, alternators and batteries, battery charging and the collection of used oil for recycling.
The following tables show some of the types of products we sell by major category of items:
Antifreeze & Windshield Washer Fluid
We believe customer satisfaction is often impacted by our ability to promptly provide specific automotive products as requested. Each store carries the same basic products, but we tailor our hard parts inventory to the makes and models of the vehicles in each store’s trade area, and our sales floor products are tailored to the local store’s demographics. Our hub stores (including mega hubs, which carry an even broader assortment) carry a larger assortment of products that are delivered to local satellite stores. We are constantly updating the products we offer to ensure our inventory matches the products our customers need or desire.
We want to be the value leader in our industry, by consistently providing quality merchandise at the right price, backed by a satisfactory warranty and outstanding customer service. For many of our products, we offer multiple value choices in a good/better/best assortment, with appropriate price and quality differences from the “good” products to the “better” and “best” products. A key differentiating component versus our competitors is our exclusive line of in-house brands, which includes Duralast and the family of Duralast brands, ProElite, ShopPro, SureBilt, TruGrade and Valucraft. We believe that our overall value compares favorably to that of our competitors.
Brand Marketing: Marketing and Loyalty
We believe that targeted advertising and promotions play important roles in succeeding in today’s environment. We are constantly working to understand our customers’ wants and needs so we can build long-lasting, loyal relationships. We utilize advertising, direct marketing, loyalty programs and promotions primarily to highlight our great value, the availability of high quality parts and develop a relationship with an expanding base of customers. Broadcast and digital media are our primary advertising methods of driving retail traffic to our stores, while we leverage a dedicated sales force and our ProVantage loyalty program to drive commercial sales.
Store Design, Visual Merchandising and Promotional Execution
We design and build stores for high visual impact. The typical store utilizes colorful exterior and interior signage, exposed beams and ductwork and brightly lit interiors. Maintenance products, accessories and non-automotive items are attractively displayed for easy browsing by customers. In-store signage and special displays promote products on floor displays, end caps and shelves. We utilize in-store signage, creative product placement and promotions to help educate customers about products that they need.
Purchasing and Supply Chain
Merchandise is selected and purchased for all stores through our store support centers located in Memphis, Tennessee; Monterrey, Mexico and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Additionally, we have an office in Shanghai, China to support our sourcing efforts in Asia. In fiscal 2021, one class of similar products accounted for approximately 13 percent of our total revenues, and one vendor supplied approximately 10 percent of our total purchases. No other class of similar products accounted for 10 percent or more of our total revenues, and no other individual vendor provided more than 10 percent of our total purchases. We believe alternative sources of supply exist, at similar costs, for most types of product sold. Most of our merchandise flows through our distribution centers to our stores by our fleet of tractors and trailers or by third-party trucking firms. The distribution centers replenish all stores up to multiple times per week depending on store sales volumes.
We ended fiscal 2021 with 237 total domestic hub stores, which have a larger assortment of products as well as regular replenishment items that can be delivered to a store in its network within 24 hours. Hub stores are generally replenished from distribution centers multiple times per week. Hub stores have increased our ability to distribute products on a timely basis to many of our stores and to expand our product assortment.
As a subset of our domestic hub stores, we ended fiscal 2021 with 58 domestic mega hubs, an increase of 14 since the end of fiscal 2020. Mega hubs work in concert with our hubs to drive customer satisfaction through improved local parts availability and expanded product assortments. A mega hub store carries inventory of 80,000 to 110,000 unique SKUs, approximately twice what a hub store carries. Mega hubs provide coverage to both surrounding stores and other hub stores multiple times a day or on an overnight basis. Currently, we have over 5,900 domestic stores with access to mega hub inventory. A majority of these 5,900 stores currently receive their service same day.
The sale of automotive parts, accessories and maintenance items is highly competitive due to numerous factors, including name recognition, product availability, customer service, store location and price. AutoZone competes in the aftermarket auto parts industry, which includes both the retail DIY and commercial do-it-for-me (“DIFM”) auto parts and products markets.
Our competitors include national, regional and local auto parts chains, independently owned parts stores, online automotive parts stores or marketplaces, wholesale distributors, jobbers, repair shops, car washes and auto dealers, in addition to discount and mass merchandise stores, hardware stores, supermarkets, drugstores, convenience stores, home stores and other retailers that sell aftermarket vehicle parts and supplies, chemicals, accessories, tools and maintenance parts. AutoZone competes on the basis of customer service, including the knowledge and expertise of our AutoZoners; merchandise quality, selection and availability; product warranty; store layouts, location and convenience; price; and the strength of our AutoZone brand name, trademarks and service marks.
We are subject to numerous federal, state, and local laws and regulations, many of which are complex, frequently revised and subject to varying interpretations. Some of the more significant regulations include, but are not limited to, regulations governing the disposal of hazardous materials, environmental regulations and occupational health and safety laws. For example, in connection with our used oil, oil filter and battery recycling programs, our customers may bring hazardous materials onto our property and our employees must abide by appropriate policies and procedures to ensure the safe handling of these materials before a third party takes possession for recycling or disposal. The terms of our contracts with third party vendors require that they are in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Additionally, as an owner or operator of real property, we may be liable for the cost of removal or remediation of hazardous or toxic substances on, under or in such property.
While compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including environmental regulations, has not had a material adverse effect on capital expenditures, earnings or our competitive position to date, we can make no assurances as to the future costs of compliance. For more information, see the Risk Factor titled “Our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows may be adversely affected by the adoption of new laws, changes to existing laws, increased enforcement activity or other governmental actions.” in “Part I. Item 1A, Risk Factors” in this report.
Trademarks and Patents
We have registered several service marks and trademarks in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as well as in certain other countries, including our service marks: “ALLDATA Collision,” “ALLDATA Diagnostics,” “ALLDATA Shop Manager,” “ALLDATA Tech-Assist,” “AutoZone,” “AutoZone Rewards,” “Do-It-Yourself Doesn’t Mean You Have To Do It Alone,” “Get in the Zone,” “Parts Are Just Part of What We Do,” “ProVantage,” “The Best Parts in Auto Parts,” “Zone” and trademarks: “ALLDATA Manage,” “ALLDATA Mobile,” “ALLDATA Repair,” “AutoZone,” “AutoZone & Design,” “BatteryZone,” “Duralast,” “Duralast Aero Blade,” “Duralast Ceramic Blade,” “Duralast Elite,” “Duralast Flex Blade,” “Duralast Gold,” “Duralast Gold Cmax,” “Duralast GT,” “Duralast Platinum,” “Duralast ProPower,” “Duralast ProPower Plus,” “Duralast ProPower Ultra,” “Duralast ProPower AGM,” “Duralast Max,” “Econocraft,” “Loan-A-Tool,” “ProElite,” “ProElite & Design,” “Shop Pro,” “SureBilt,” “Tougher Through Technology,” “TruGrade,” “Valucraft,” “V & Design” and “Z-net.” We believe that these service marks and trademarks are important components of our marketing and merchandising strategies.
Our business is somewhat seasonal in nature, with the highest sales typically occurring in the spring and summer months of February through September, and the lowest sales in the months of December and January. During short periods of time, a store’s sales can be affected by weather conditions. Extremely hot or extremely cold weather may enhance sales by causing parts to fail; thereby increasing sales of seasonal products. Mild or rainy weather tends to soften sales, as parts failure rates are lower in mild weather and elective maintenance is deferred during periods of rainy weather. Over the longer term, we believe the effects of weather balance out, as we have stores throughout the Americas.
Our primary website is at www.autozone.com. We make available, free of charge, at www.autozone.com, by clicking “Investor Relations” located at the bottom of the page, our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, proxy statements, registration statements and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, as soon as reasonably feasible after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. Our website and the information contained therein or linked thereto are not intended to be incorporated into this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Information about our Executive Officers
The following list describes our executive officers, which are elected by and serve at the discretion of the Board of Directors. The title of each executive officer includes the words “Customer Satisfaction” which reflects our commitment to customer service.
William C. Rhodes, III, 56—Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Customer Satisfaction
William C. Rhodes, III, was named Chairman of AutoZone during fiscal 2007 and has been President, Chief Executive Officer and a director since March 2005. Prior to his appointment as President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Rhodes served in various capacities within the Company since 1994. Prior to 1994, Mr. Rhodes was a manager with Ernst & Young LLP. Mr. Rhodes is a member of the Board of Directors for Dollar General Corporation.
Jamere Jackson, 52—Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President – Finance and Store Development, Customer Satisfaction
Jamere Jackson was named Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer-Elect on September 13, 2020 and Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President – Finance and Store Development effective January 1, 2021. Prior to joining AutoZone, from 2018 to 2020, Mr. Jackson served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Hertz Global Holdings, Inc., a worldwide rental company. From 2014 to 2018, Mr. Jackson served as Chief Financial Officer of Nielsen Holdings plc, an information, data and measurement company. Prior to 2014, Mr. Jackson held a variety of leadership roles at General Electric Company. Mr. Jackson serves on the Board of Directors for Eli Lilly & Co. and Hibbett, Inc.
Philip B. Daniele, 52—Executive Vice President – Merchandising, Supply Chain and Marketing, Customer Satisfaction
Philip B. Daniele was named Executive Vice President – Merchandising, Supply Chain and Marketing in June 2021. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President – Commercial from 2015 to 2021, Vice President – Commercial Support from 2013 to 2015 and Vice President – Merchandising from 2008 to 2013. He was also a Divisional Vice President – Store Operations from 2005 to 2008. Prior to 2005, Mr. Daniele held several other key management positions with the Company.
Mark A. Finestone, 60—Executive Vice President – Strategy and Innovation, Customer Satisfaction
Mark A. Finestone was named Executive Vice President – Strategy and Innovation in June 2021. From 2015 to 2021, he was Executive Vice President – Merchandising Supply Chain and Marketing. From 2008 to 2015, he was Senior Vice President – Merchandising, and from 2002 to 2008, he was Vice President – Merchandising. Prior to joining AutoZone in 2002, Mr. Finestone worked for May Department Stores for 19 years where he held a variety of leadership roles which included Divisional Vice President – Merchandising.
Preston B. Frazer, 45—Executive Vice President – Store Operations, Commercial and Loss Prevention, Customer Satisfaction
Preston B. Frazer was named Executive Vice President – Store Operations, Commercial and Loss Prevention in June 2021. From 2019 to 2021, he was Senior Vice President – Store Operations. Prior to that, he held the position of Divisional Vice President in addition to serving as Vice President – Store Operations Support. He began his career with AutoZone in 2006 in Finance and has held several key functional roles of increasing responsibility. Prior to joining AutoZone, Mr. Frazer was a senior manager with the accounting firm of KPMG, LLP.
Thomas B. Newbern, 59—Executive Vice President – International, Information Technology and ALLDATA, Customer Satisfaction
Thomas B. Newbern was named Executive Vice President – International, Information Technology and ALLDATA in June 2021. From 2015 to 2021, he was Executive Vice President – Store Operations, Commercial, Loss Prevention and ALLDATA. From 2013 to 2015, he was Senior Vice President – Store Operations and Loss Prevention. From 2012 to 2013, he was Senior Vice President – Store Operations and Store Development. From 2007 to 2012, he was Senior Vice President – Store Operations, and from 1998 to 2007, he was Vice President –Store Operations. Prior to 1998, Mr. Newbern held several other key management positions with the Company.
K. Michelle Borninkhof, 47—Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Customer Satisfaction
K. Michelle Borninkhof was elected Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer during April 2021. Prior to that, she was Chief Information Officer and Vice President for U.S. Technology at McDonald’s since 2018. Prior to joining McDonald’s, Ms. Borninkhof spent 11 years with Walmart Stores holding various leadership roles including Vice President – International Technology Delivery. Throughout her career, Ms. Borninkhof held various roles in store retail, distribution center operations and process improvement.
Eric S. Gould, 52—Senior Vice President – Supply Chain, Customer Satisfaction
Eric S. Gould was named Senior Vice President, Supply Chain, in February 2021. From 2017 to 2021, he served as Vice President, Supply Chain Replenishment and from 2013 to 2017 he served as Vice President – Commercial Sales. He was also Vice President – Replenishment from 2003 to 2013. Prior to 2003, Mr. Gould held several other key management positions within the Company.
Domingo J. Hurtado, 60—Senior Vice President – International, Customer Satisfaction
Domingo J. Hurtado Rodríguez was named Senior Vice President – International in September 2018. Prior to that, he was President – AutoZone de México. Mr. Hurtado has served in various capacities within the Company since 2001, which included leading the Company’s expansion into Mexico. Prior to 2001, he held different positions with RadioShack including Director General in Mexico and General Manager in Venezuela.
Dennis W. LeRiche, 53—Senior Vice President – Store Operations, Customer Satisfaction
Dennis W. LeRiche was named Senior Vice President – Store Operations in June 2021. From 2015 to 2021, he was a Divisional Vice President – Store Operations. Prior to 2015, Mr. LeRiche held several other key management positions with the Company.
Grant E. McGee, 59—Senior Vice President – Commercial, Customer Satisfaction
Grant E. McGee was named Senior Vice President – Commercial in June 2021. From 2007 to 2021, he was a Divisional Vice President – Store Operations. From 2004 to 2007, he was Vice President – Commercial. Prior to 2004, Mr. McGee held several other key positions with the Company.
Seong K. Ohm, 57—Senior Vice President – Merchandising, Customer Satisfaction
Seong K. Ohm was named Senior Vice President – Merchandising on October 26, 2020. Previously, Ms. Ohm served as the Group Commercial Development Officer for the Dairy Farm Group. Ms. Ohm also was the Chief Commercial Officer for Home Plus, the second largest retailer in Korea. Prior to these roles, she was Senior Vice President – General Merchandise Manager for both Walmart and Sam’s Club and Vice President/Divisional Merchandise Manager – Technology for Walmart Stores, Inc. Ms. Ohm began her career with General Electric.
Charlie Pleas, III, 56—Senior Vice President and Controller, Customer Satisfaction
Charlie Pleas, III, was elected Senior Vice President and Controller during 2007. Prior to that, he was Vice President and Controller since 2003. Previously, he was Vice President – Accounting since 2000, and Director of General Accounting since 1996. Prior to joining AutoZone, Mr. Pleas was a Division Controller with Fleming Companies, Inc. where he served in various capacities during his tenure from 1988 to 1996. Prior to 1988, he worked with Ernst & Young. Mr. Pleas is a member of the Board of Directors for Kirkland’s Inc.
Albert Saltiel, 57—Senior Vice President – Marketing and E-Commerce, Customer Satisfaction
Albert Saltiel was named Senior Vice President – Marketing and E-Commerce during October 2014. Previously, he was Senior Vice President – Marketing since 2013. Prior to that, he was Chief Marketing Officer and a key member of the leadership team at Navistar International Corporation. Mr. Saltiel has also been with Sony Electronics as General Manager, Marketing, and Ford Motor Company where he held multiple marketing roles.
Richard C. Smith, 57—Senior Vice President – Human Resources, Customer Satisfaction
Richard C. Smith was elected Senior Vice President – Human Resources in December 2015. He has been an AutoZoner since 1985, previously holding the position of Vice President of Stores since 1997. Prior thereto, he served in various capacities within the Company.
Kristen C. Wright, 45—Senior Vice President – General Counsel & Secretary, Customer Satisfaction
Kristen C. Wright was named Senior Vice President – General Counsel & Secretary effective January 2014. She previously held the title of Vice President – Assistant General Counsel & Assistant Secretary since January 2012. Before joining AutoZone, she was a partner with the law firm of Bass, Berry & Sims PLC.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
Our business is subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties. The risks and uncertainties described below could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, operating results, cash flows and stock price. The following information should be read in conjunction with the other information contained in this report and other filings that we make with the SEC. These risks and uncertainties are not the only ones we face. Our business could also be affected by additional factors that are presently unknown to us or that we currently believe to be immaterial to our business.
Strategic and Operational Risks
The COVID-19 pandemic persists in the U.S. and many other parts of the world and may have a material adverse effect on our business operations, financial condition, liquidity and cash flow.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact numerous aspects of our business, and the long-term impact to our business remains unknown. This is due to the numerous uncertainties that have risen from the pandemic, including the severity of the disease, the duration of the outbreak, the likelihood of resurgences of the outbreak, including due to the emergence and spread of variants, actions that may be taken by governmental authorities in response to the disease, the timing, distribution, efficacy and public acceptance of vaccines, and unintended consequences of the foregoing.
In particular, it is unclear what near-term and long-term impact these factors will have on the number of vehicle miles driven, traffic to our stores, as well as demand for our products from our retail and commercial customers. While we have added safety measures to protect our employees and customers, continued business disruption caused by COVID-19 may require further significant actions to mitigate the impact, including but not limited to employee furloughs, reductions in store hours and store closings as well as ongoing increases in expenses. Conversely, if the unprecedented levels of customer demand we have experienced during the pandemic revert or subside, we may be unable to reduce expenses or otherwise react quickly and effectively to such changes.
Further, the continuing pandemic and related economic uncertainty may result in prolonged disruption and volatility to our business, cause additional negative impacts of which we are not currently aware and also magnify other risks associated with our business and operations, including risks associated with sourcing quality merchandise domestically and outside the U.S.; our ability to promptly adjust inventory levels to meet fluctuations in customer demand; our ability to comply with complex and evolving laws and regulations related to customers’ and AutoZoners’ health and safety; our ability to open new store locations and expand or remodel existing stores; and our ability to hire and train qualified employees to address temporary or sustained labor shortages. Accordingly, the COVID-19 pandemic could have a material adverse effect on demand for our products, workforce availability and our results of operations, financial condition, liquidity and cash flows.
If demand for our products slows, then our business may be materially adversely affected.
Demand for the products we sell may be affected by a number of factors we cannot control, including:
the number of older vehicles in service. Vehicles seven years old or older are generally no longer under the original vehicle manufacturers’ warranties and tend to need more maintenance and repair than newer vehicles.
rising energy prices. Increases in energy prices may cause our customers to defer purchases of certain of our products as they use a higher percentage of their income to pay for gasoline and other energy costs and may drive their vehicles less, resulting in less wear and tear and lower demand for repairs and maintenance.
the economy. In periods of declining economic conditions, consumers may reduce their discretionary spending by deferring vehicle maintenance or repair. Additionally, such conditions may affect our customers’ ability to obtain credit. During periods of expansionary economic conditions, more of our DIY customers may pay others to repair and maintain their vehicles instead of working on their own vehicles, or they may purchase new vehicles.
the weather. Milder weather conditions may lower the failure rates of automotive parts, while extended periods of rain and winter precipitation may cause our customers to defer maintenance and repair on their vehicles. Extremely hot or cold conditions may enhance demand for our products due to increased failure rates of our customers’ automotive parts. Additionally, global warming trends and other significant climate changes can create more variability in the short term or lead to other weather conditions that could impact our business.
technological advances. Advances in automotive technology, such as electric vehicles, and parts design can result in cars needing maintenance less frequently and parts lasting longer.
the number of miles vehicles are driven annually. Higher vehicle mileage increases the need for maintenance and repair. Mileage levels may be affected by gas prices, ride sharing and other factors.
the quality of the vehicles manufactured by the original vehicle manufacturers and the length of the warranties or maintenance offered on new vehicles.
restrictions on access to telematics and diagnostic tools and repair information imposed by the original vehicle manufacturers or by governmental regulation. These restrictions may cause vehicle owners to rely on dealers to perform maintenance and repairs.
These factors could result in a decline in the demand for our products, which could adversely affect our business and overall financial condition.
If we are unable to compete successfully against other businesses that sell the products that we sell, we could lose customers and our sales and profits may decline.
The sale of automotive parts, accessories and maintenance items is highly competitive, and sales volumes are dependent on many factors, including name recognition, product availability, customer service, store location and price. Competitors are opening locations near our existing locations. AutoZone competes as a provider in both the DIY and DIFM auto parts and accessories markets.
Our competitors include national, regional and local auto parts chains, independently owned parts stores, online automotive parts stores or marketplaces, wholesale distributors, jobbers, repair shops, car washes and auto dealers, in addition to discount and mass merchandise stores, hardware stores, supermarkets, drugstores, convenience stores, home stores, and other retailers that sell aftermarket vehicle parts and supplies, chemicals, accessories, tools and maintenance parts. Although we believe we compete effectively on the basis of customer service, including the knowledge and expertise of our AutoZoners; merchandise quality, selection and availability; product warranty; store layout, location and convenience; price; and the strength of our AutoZone brand name, trademarks and service marks, some of our competitors may gain competitive advantages, such as greater financial and marketing resources allowing them to sell automotive products at lower prices, larger stores with more merchandise, longer operating histories, more frequent customer visits and more effective advertising. Online and multi-channel retailers often focus on delivery services, offering customers faster, guaranteed delivery times and low-price or free shipping. Some online businesses have lower operating costs than we do. In addition, because our business strategy is based on offering superior levels of customer service to complement the products we offer, our cost structure is higher than some of our competitors, which also puts pressure on our margins.
Consumers are embracing shopping online and through mobile commerce applications. With the increasing use of digital tools and social media, and our competitors’ increased focus on optimizing customers’ online experience, our customers are quickly able to compare prices, product assortment and feedback from other customers before purchasing our products either online, in the physical stores or through a combination of both offerings.
We believe that we compete effectively on the basis of merchandise availability as a result of investments in inventory available for immediate sale, the development of a robust hub and mega hub distribution network providing efficient access to obtain products required on-demand, options to order products online or by telephone and pick them up in stores and options for special orders directly from our vendors. We also offer hassle-free returns to our customers. In addition, we believe that customers value the personal interaction with a salesperson who is qualified to offer trustworthy advice and provide other free services such as parts testing.
We also utilize promotions, advertising and our loyalty programs to drive customer traffic and compete more effectively, and we must regularly assess and adjust our efforts to address changes in the competitive marketplace. If we are unable to continue to manage readily-available inventory demand and competitive delivery options as well as develop successful competitive strategies, including the maintenance of effective promotions, advertising and loyalty programs, or if our competitors develop more effective strategies, we could lose customers and our sales and profits may decline.
We may not be able to sustain our historic rate of sales growth.
We have increased our store count in the past five fiscal years, growing from 5,814 stores at August 27, 2016, to 6,767 stores at August 28, 2021, a compounded annual growth rate of three percent. Additionally, we have increased annual revenues in the past five fiscal years from $10.636 billion in fiscal 2016 to $14.630 billion in fiscal 2021, with a compounded annual growth rate of seven percent. Annual revenue growth is driven by the opening of new stores, the development of new commercial programs and increases in same store sales. See “Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” for further discussion of same store sales.
We open new stores only after evaluating customer buying trends and market demand/needs, all of which could be adversely affected by persistent unemployment, wage cuts, small business failures and microeconomic conditions unique to the automotive industry. Same store sales are impacted both by customer demand levels and by the prices we are able to charge for our products, which can also be negatively impacted by economic pressures.
Additionally, the unprecedented levels of customer demand we have experienced for our products during the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant increases in same store sales growth during fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021. Therefore, we may not be able to sustain these growth trends if customer demand returns to pre-pandemic levels.
If we cannot profitably increase our market share in the commercial auto parts business, our sales growth may be limited.
Although we are one of the largest sellers of auto parts in the commercial market, we must effectively compete against national and regional auto parts chains, independently owned parts stores, wholesalers and jobbers in order to increase our commercial market share. Although we believe we compete effectively in the commercial market on the basis of customer service, merchandise quality, selection and availability, price, product warranty, distribution locations and the strength of our AutoZone brand name, trademarks and service marks, some automotive aftermarket participants have been in business for substantially longer periods of time than we have, and as a result have developed long-term customer relationships and have large available inventories. If we are unable to profitably develop new commercial customers, our sales growth may be limited.
Our business depends upon hiring, training and retaining qualified employees.
We believe much of our brand value lies in the quality of the approximately 100,000 AutoZoners employed in our stores, distribution centers, store support centers and ALLDATA. Our workforce costs represent our largest operating expense, and our ability to meet our labor needs while controlling labor costs is subject to numerous external factors, including market pressures with respect to prevailing wage rates and unemployment levels. Our business is also subject to employment laws and regulations, including requirements related to minimum wage, benefits and scheduling requirements. In addition, the implementation of potential regulatory changes relating to overtime exemptions and benefits for certain employees under federal and state laws could result in increased labor costs to our business and negatively impact our operating results.
We compete with other retail businesses for many of our associates in hourly positions, and these positions have historically had high turnover rates, which can lead to increased training and retention costs, particularly in a competitive labor market. We cannot be assured that we can continue to hire, train and retain qualified employees at current wage rates since we operate in a competitive labor market, and there is a risk of market increases in compensation.
If we are unable to hire, properly train and retain qualified employees, we could experience higher employment costs, reduced sales, losses of customers and diminution of our brand or company culture, which could adversely affect our earnings. If we do not maintain competitive wages or benefit packages, our customer service could suffer due to a declining quality of our workforce or, alternatively, our earnings could decrease if we increase our wage rates. A violation or change in employment and labor laws (including changes in existing employment benefit programs such as health insurance) could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
Inability to acquire and provide quality merchandise at competitive prices could adversely affect our sales and results of operations.
We are dependent upon our domestic and international vendors continuing to supply us with quality merchandise at competitive prices and payment terms. If our merchandise offerings do not meet our customers’ expectations regarding quality, innovation and safety, we could experience lost sales, increased costs and exposure to legal and reputational risk. All of our vendors must comply with applicable product safety laws, and we are dependent on them to ensure that the products we buy comply with all safety and quality standards. Events that give rise to actual, potential or perceived product safety concerns could expose us to government enforcement action or private litigation, result in costly product recalls and other liabilities and lead to reputational harm and loss of customer confidence. To the extent our suppliers are subject to added government regulation of their product design and/or manufacturing processes, the cost of the merchandise we purchase may rise.
In addition, negative customer perceptions regarding the safety or quality of the products we sell could cause our customers to seek alternative sources for their needs, resulting in lost sales. In those circumstances, it may be difficult and costly for us to rebuild our reputation and regain the confidence of our customers. Furthermore, our vendors are impacted by global economic conditions which in turn impact our ability to source merchandise at competitive prices. For example, the recent surges in consumer demand, shortages of raw materials and disruption to the global supply chain have negatively impacted costs and inventory availability and may continue to have a negative impact on future results and profitability. Credit market and other macroeconomic conditions could also have a material adverse effect on the ability of our global and domestic suppliers to finance and operate their businesses.
If we experience transitions or changeover with any of our significant vendors, or if they experience financial difficulties or otherwise are unable to deliver merchandise to us on a timely basis, or at all, we could have product shortages in our stores that could adversely affect customers’ perceptions of us and cause us to lose customers and sales.
Risks associated with products sourced outside the U.S.
We directly imported approximately 13% of our purchases in fiscal 2021, but many of our domestic vendors directly import their products or components of their products. Changes to the price or flow of these goods for any reason, such as civil unrest or acts of war, currency fluctuations, disruptions in maritime lanes, port labor disputes, economic conditions and instability in the countries in which foreign suppliers are located, the financial instability of suppliers, suppliers’ failure to meet our standards, issues with labor practices of our suppliers or labor problems they may experience (such as strikes, stoppages or slowdowns, which could also increase labor costs during and following the disruption), the availability and cost of raw materials to suppliers, increased import duties or tariffs, merchandise quality or safety issues, shipping and transport availability and cost, increases in wage rates and taxes, transport security, inflation and other factors relating to the suppliers and the countries in which they are located or from which they import, often are beyond our control and could adversely affect our operations and profitability. In addition, the foreign trade policies, tariffs and other impositions on imported goods, trade sanctions imposed on certain countries, import limitations on certain types of goods or of goods containing certain materials from other countries and other factors relating to foreign trade and port labor agreements are beyond our control. These and other factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting our suppliers and our access to products could adversely affect our business and financial performance. As we or our domestic vendors increase our imports of merchandise from foreign vendors, the risks associated with these imports will also increase.
Our ability to grow depends in part on new store openings, existing store remodels and expansions and effective utilization of our existing supply chain and hub network.
Our continued growth and success will depend in part on our ability to open and operate new stores and expand and remodel existing stores to meet customers’ needs on a timely and profitable basis. Accomplishing our new and existing store expansion goals will depend upon a number of factors, including the ability to partner with developers and landlords to obtain suitable sites for new and expanded stores at acceptable costs, the hiring and training of qualified personnel and the integration of new stores into existing operations. There can be no assurance we will be able to achieve our store expansion goals, manage our growth effectively, successfully integrate the planned new stores into our operations or operate our new, remodeled and expanded stores profitably.
In addition, we extensively utilize our hub network, our supply chain and logistics management techniques to efficiently stock our stores. We have made, and plan to continue to make, significant investments in our supply chain to improve our ability to provide the best parts at the right price and to meet consumer product needs. If we fail to effectively utilize our existing hubs and/or supply chains or if our investments in our supply chain initiatives, including directly sourcing some products from outside the U.S., do not provide the anticipated benefits, we could experience sub-optimal inventory levels in our stores or increases in our operating costs, which could adversely affect our sales volume and/or our margins.
Our success in international operations is dependent on our ability to manage the unique challenges presented by international markets.
The various risks we face in our U.S. operations generally also exist when conducting operations in and sourcing products and materials from outside of the U.S., in addition to the unique costs, risks and difficulties of managing international operations. Our expansion into international markets may be adversely affected by local laws and customs, U.S. laws applicable to foreign operations, and political and socio-economic conditions.
Risks inherent in international operations also include potential adverse tax consequences, potential changes to trade policies and trade agreements, compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and local anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws, greater difficulty in enforcing intellectual property rights, challenges to identify and gain access to local suppliers, and possibly misjudging the response of consumers in foreign countries to our product assortment and marketing strategy.
In addition, our operations in international markets are conducted primarily in the local currency of those countries. Since our Consolidated Financial Statements are denominated in U.S. dollars, amounts of assets, liabilities, net sales, and other revenues and expenses denominated in local currencies must be translated into U.S. dollars using exchange rates for the current period. As a result, foreign currency exchange rates and fluctuations in those rates may adversely impact our financial performance.
Business interruptions may negatively impact our operating hours, operability of our computer and other systems, availability of merchandise and otherwise have a material negative effect on our sales and our business.
War or acts of terrorism, political or civil unrest, unusual weather conditions, including due to the impacts of climate change, hurricanes, tornadoes, windstorms, fires, earthquakes and floods, global health epidemics (such as COVID-19) and other natural or other disasters or the threat of any of them, may result in certain of our stores, distribution centers, store support centers or sourcing offices being closed for a period of time or permanently or have a negative impact on our ability to obtain merchandise available for sale in our stores. Some of our merchandise is imported from other countries. If imported goods become difficult or impossible to bring into the U.S., and if we cannot obtain such merchandise from other sources at similar costs, our sales and profit margins may be negatively affected.
In the event commercial transportation is curtailed or substantially delayed, our business may be adversely impacted, as we may have difficulty transporting merchandise to our distribution centers and stores resulting in lost sales and/or a potential loss of customer loyalty. Transportation issues could also cause us to cancel purchase orders if we are unable to receive merchandise in our distribution centers.
Our failure to protect our reputation could have a material adverse effect on our brand name and profitability.
We believe our continued strong sales growth is driven in significant part by our brand name. The value in our brand name and its continued effectiveness in driving our sales growth are dependent to a significant degree on our ability to maintain our reputation for safety, high product quality, friendliness, service, trustworthy advice, integrity and business ethics. Any negative publicity about these or other areas involving our business, including our response or lack thereof to external events involving civil unrest, social justice, and political issues, whether or not based in fact, could damage our reputation and may result in reduced demand for our merchandise. The increasing use of technology also poses a risk as customers are able to quickly compare products and prices and use social media to provide feedback in a manner that is rapidly and broadly dispersed. Our reputation could be impacted if customers have a bad experience and share it over social media.
Failure to comply with ethical, social, product, labor, environmental and anti-corruption standards could also jeopardize our reputation and potentially lead to various adverse actions by consumer or environmental groups, employees or regulatory bodies. Damage to our reputation or loss of consumer confidence for any of these or other reasons could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition, as well as require additional resources to rebuild our reputation.
Cyber-security and Data Privacy Risks
We rely heavily on our information technology systems for our key business processes. Any failure or interruption in these systems could have a material adverse impact on our business.
We rely extensively on our information technology systems, some of which are managed or provided by third-party service providers, to manage inventory, communicate with customers, process transactions and summarize results. Our systems and the third-party systems we rely on are subject to damage or interruption from power outages, facility damage, physical theft, telecommunications failures, computer viruses, security breaches, malicious cyber-attacks, catastrophic events, and design or usage errors by our AutoZoners, contractors or third-party service providers. Although we and our third-party service providers work diligently to maintain our respective systems, we may not be successful in doing so.
If our systems are damaged or fail to function properly, we may incur substantial costs to repair or replace them, and we may experience loss of critical data and interruptions or delays in our ability to manage inventories or process transactions, which could result in lost sales, inability to process purchase orders and/or a potential loss of customer loyalty, which could adversely affect our results of operations.
We are in the process of developing and implementing various information systems, as well as modifying existing systems. These technological changes will require significant investment of human and financial resources, and we may experience significant delays, cost increases and other obstacles with these projects. Although we have invested significant resources during our planning, project management and training, implementation issues may arise which may disrupt our operations and negatively impact our business operations, financial condition and cash flows.
Failure to protect or effectively respond to a breach of the privacy and security of customers’, suppliers’, AutoZoners’ or Company information could damage our reputation, subject us to litigation and cause us to incur substantial costs.
Our business, like that of most retailers and distributors, involves the receipt, storage and transmission of personal information about our customers, suppliers and AutoZoners, some of which is entrusted to third-party service providers and vendors. Failure to protect the security of our customers’, suppliers’, AutoZoners’ and Company information could subject us to costly regulatory enforcement actions, expose us to litigation and impair our reputation, which may have a negative impact on our sales. We consider information security to be a top priority and undertake cyber-security planning and activities throughout the Company. Senior management and the Board of Directors are actively engaged in cyber-security risk management. While we and our third-party service providers and vendors take significant steps to protect customer, supplier, employee and other confidential information, including maintaining compliance with payment card industry standards and a security program that includes updating technology and security policies, employee training and monitoring and routine testing of our systems, these security measures may be breached in the future due to cyber-attack, employee error, system compromises, fraud, trickery, hacking or other intentional or unintentional acts, and unauthorized parties may obtain access to this data. We believe our preventative actions provide adequate measures of protection against security breaches and generally reduce our cyber-security risks. However, our business or our third party providers, with which we share sensitive information, may not discover a security breach or loss of information for a significant period after the security breach occurs. Failure to effectively respond to system compromises may undermine our security measures. The methods used to obtain unauthorized access are constantly evolving and may be difficult to anticipate or detect for long periods of time. To date, we have not experienced a material breach of cyber-security; however, our computer systems have been, and will likely continue to be, subjected to unauthorized access or phishing attempts, computer viruses, malware, ransomware or other malicious codes. In particular, in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a spike in cyber-security attacks as shelter in place orders and work from home measures have led businesses to increase reliance on virtual environments and communications systems, which have been subjected to increasing third-party vulnerabilities and security risks. As the regulatory environment related to information security, data collection and use, and privacy becomes increasingly rigorous and complex, compliance with these requirements could also result in significant additional costs. There can be no assurance that our security measures will prevent or limit the impact of a future incident. The cost to remediate damages to our systems suffered as a result of a cyber-attack could be significant.
We accept payments using a variety of methods, including cash, checks, credit, debit, electronic payments (such as PayPal, Apple Pay, etc.) and gift cards, and we may offer new payment options over time, which may have information security risk implications. As a retailer accepting debit and credit cards for payment, we are subject to various industry data protection standards and protocols, such as the American National Standards Institute encryption standards and payment network security operating guidelines and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Even though we comply with these standards and protocols and other information security measures, we cannot be certain that the security measures we maintain to protect all of our information technology systems are able to prevent, contain or detect any cyber-attacks, cyber terrorism, or security breaches from known cyber-attacks or malware that may be developed in the future. We maintain insurance coverage that may protect us from certain cyber-attack claims; however, our insurance coverage may not be sufficient to cover significant losses in any particular situation.
To the extent any cyber-attack or intrusion in our or one of our third-party service provider’s information systems results in the loss, damage or misappropriation of information, we may be materially adversely affected by claims from customers, financial institutions, regulatory authorities, payment card networks and others. In certain circumstances, payment card association rules and obligations to which we are subject under our contracts with payment card processors make us liable to payment card issuers if information in connection with payment cards and payment card transactions we hold is compromised, which liabilities could be substantial. In addition, the cost of complying with stricter and more complex data privacy, data collection and information security laws and standards could be significant to us.
We have invested in information technology risk management and disaster recovery plans. Although these plans are in place, we must provide ongoing monitoring and consistently revise our plans as technologies change rapidly and our efforts to overcome security risks continue to become increasingly more complex and concentrated.
Indebtedness, Financial and Market Risks
We are self-insured for certain costs associated with our operations and an increase in our insurance claims and expenses may have a material negative impact on us.
We are self-insured up to certain limits for workers’ compensation, employee group medical, general liability, product liability, property and automobile. The types and amounts of insurance may vary from time to time based on our decisions with respect to risk retention and regulatory requirements. Our reserves are established using historical trends and, where appropriate, using a third party actuary to estimate costs to settle reported claims and claims incurred but not yet reported. Estimated costs are subject to a variety of assumptions and other factors including the severity, duration and frequency of claims, legal costs associated with claims, healthcare trends and projected inflation of related factors. Material increases in the number of insurance claims, changes to healthcare costs, accident frequency and severity, legal expenses and other factors could result in unfavorable difference between actual self-insurance costs and our reserve estimates. As a result, our self-insurance costs could increase which may adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
A downgrade in our credit ratings or a general disruption in the credit markets could make it more difficult for us to access funds, refinance our debt, obtain new funding or issue debt securities.
Our short-term and long-term debt is rated investment grade by the major rating agencies. These investment-grade credit ratings have historically allowed us to take advantage of lower interest rates and other favorable terms on our short-term credit lines, in our senior debt offerings and in the commercial paper markets. To maintain our investment-grade ratings, we are required to meet certain financial performance ratios. A change by the rating agencies in these ratios, an increase in our debt, and/or a decline in our earnings could result in downgrades in our credit ratings. A downgrade in our credit ratings could limit our access to public debt markets, limit the institutions willing to provide credit facilities to us, result in more restrictive financial and other covenants in our public and private debt and would likely significantly increase our overall borrowing costs and adversely affect our earnings.
Moreover, significant deterioration in the financial condition of large financial institutions during the Great Recession resulted in a severe loss of liquidity and availability of credit in global credit markets and in more stringent borrowing terms. We can provide no assurance that such similar events that occurred during the Great Recession will not occur again in the foreseeable future. Conditions and events in the global credit markets could have a material adverse effect on our access to short-term and long-term debt and the terms and cost of that debt.
Legal and Regulatory Risks
Our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows may be adversely affected by the adoption of new laws, changes to existing laws, increased enforcement activity or other governmental actions.
We are subject to numerous federal, state and local laws and regulations, many of which are complex, frequently revised and subject to varying interpretations. These include laws governing employment and labor, wage and hour, environmental matters, proper handling and disposal of hazardous materials and waste, healthcare, data privacy, cybersecurity, the pricing and sale of goods, import and export compliance, transportation and logistics, consumer protection and advertising, among others. These laws may differ substantially in the areas where we operate. Although we have implemented policies and procedures to help ensure compliance with these laws, there can be no certainty that our employees and third parties with whom we do business will not take actions in violation of our policies or applicable laws. If we fail to comply with these laws, rules and regulations, or the manner in which they are interpreted or applied, we may be subject to governmental enforcement action or private litigation resulting in monetary penalties, reputational harm and increased costs of regulatory compliance. Any changes in regulations, the imposition of additional regulations, or the enactment of any new legislation could have an adverse impact, directly or indirectly, on our financial condition and results of operations. We may also be subject to investigations or audits by governmental authorities and regulatory agencies as a result of enforcing existing laws and regulations or changes in enforcement priorities, which can occur in the ordinary course of business or may result from increased scrutiny from a particular agency or toward a particular industry.
We may be adversely affected by legal, regulatory or market responses to global climate change.
Growing concern over climate change has led policy makers in the U.S. to consider the enactment of legislative and regulatory proposals that would impose mandatory requirements on greenhouse gas emissions. Such laws, if enacted, are likely to impact our business in a number of ways. For example, significant increases in fuel economy requirements, new federal or state restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide or new federal or state incentive programs that may be imposed on vehicles and automobile fuels could adversely affect demand for vehicles, annual miles driven or the products we sell. We may not be able to accurately predict, prepare for and respond to new kinds of technological innovations with respect to electric vehicles and other technologies that minimize emissions. Compliance with any new or more stringent laws or regulations, or stricter interpretations of existing laws, could require additional expenditures by us or our suppliers. Our inability to appropriately respond to such changes could adversely impact our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows may be affected by litigation.
We are involved in lawsuits, regulatory investigations, governmental and other legal proceedings arising out of the ordinary course of business. Such matters involve significant expense and divert management’s attention and resources from other matters. The damages sought against us in these proceedings may be material and may adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
Significant changes in macroeconomic and geo-political factors could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Macroeconomic conditions impact both our customers and our suppliers. Job growth in the U.S. was stagnated and unemployment was at historically high levels at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the unemployment rate has improved, the rate has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, the U.S. government continues to operate under historically large deficits and debt burden. Continued distress in global credit markets, business failures, civil unrest, inflation, foreign exchange rate fluctuations, significant geo-political conflicts, proposed or additional tariffs, continued volatility in energy prices, the impact of a public health crisis or pandemic (such as COVID-19), constraints on the global supply chain and other factors continue to affect the global economy. Moreover, rising energy prices could impact our merchandise distribution, commercial delivery, utility and product costs. It is unclear how such factors could impact our business in the short term. Over a longer period of time, these macroeconomic and geo-political conditions could adversely affect our sales growth, margins and overhead. These could adversely affect our financial condition and operations.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 2. Properties
The following table reflects the square footage and number of leased and owned properties for our stores as of August 28, 2021:
|(1)||Square footage excludes store support centers, regional offices, distribution centers and the areas that hold the local mega hub and hub expanded assortment.|
We have approximately 5.9 million square feet in distribution centers servicing our stores, of which approximately 1.8 million square feet is leased and the remainder is owned. Our 12 distribution centers are located in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and two in Mexico. Our primary store support center is located in Memphis, Tennessee, and consists of approximately 320,000 square feet. We also have three additional store support centers located in Monterrey, Mexico; Chihuahua, Mexico and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Our International Sourcing Office is located in Shanghai, China. The ALLDATA headquarters in Elk Grove, California is leased, and we also own or lease other properties which are not material in the aggregate.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
Item 103 of Regulation S-K requires disclosure of certain environmental matters when a governmental authority is a party to the proceedings and such proceedings involve potential monetary sanctions that we reasonably believe will exceed an applied threshold of $1 million. Applying this threshold, there are no environmental matters to disclose for this period.
We are involved in various other legal proceedings incidental to the conduct of our business, including, but not limited to, several lawsuits containing class-action allegations in which the plaintiffs are current and former hourly and salaried employees who allege various wage and hour violations and unlawful termination practices. We do not currently believe that, either individually or in the aggregate, these matters will result in liabilities material to our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
The principal market on which our common stock is traded is the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “AZO.” On October 18, 2021, there were 1,936 stockholders of record, which does not include the number of beneficial owners whose shares were represented by security position listings.
We currently do not pay a dividend on our common stock. Our ability to pay dividends is subject to limitations imposed by Nevada law. Any future payment of dividends would be dependent upon our financial condition, capital requirements, earnings and cash flow.
During 1998, the Company announced a program permitting the Company to repurchase a portion of its outstanding shares not to exceed a dollar maximum established by the Company’s Board of Directors. The program was most recently amended on October 5, 2021, to increase the repurchase authorization by $1.5 billion, bringing the total value of authorized share repurchases to $27.65 billion.
Beginning in the first quarter of fiscal 2021, we restarted our share repurchases under our share repurchase program, which had been temporarily suspended during fiscal 2020 in response to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to evaluate current and expected business conditions and adjust the level of share repurchases under our share repurchase program as we deem appropriate.
Shares of common stock repurchased by the Company during the quarter ended August 28, 2021 were as follows:
Total Number of Shares Purchased
Average Price Paid per Share
Total Number of Shares Purchased as Part of Publicly Announced Plans or Programs
Maximum Dollar Value that May Yet Be Purchased Under the Plans or Programs
May 9, 2021 to June 5, 2021
June 6, 2021 to July 3, 2021
July 4, 2021 to July 31, 2021
August 1, 2021 to August 28, 2021
The Company also repurchased, at market value, an additional 7,611, 8,287 and 17,201 shares in fiscal years 2021, 2020 and 2019, respectively, from employees electing to sell their stock under the Company’s Sixth Amended and Restated Employee Stock Purchase Plan (the “Employee Plan”), qualified under Section 423 of the Internal Revenue Code, under which all eligible employees may purchase AutoZone’s common stock at 85% of the lower of the market price of the common stock on the first day or last day of each calendar quarter through payroll deductions. Maximum permitted annual purchases are $15,000 per employee or 10 percent of compensation, whichever is less. Under the Employee Plan, 8,479, 10,525 and 11,011 shares were sold to employees in fiscal 2021, 2020 and 2019, respectively. At August 28, 2021, 133,762 shares of common stock were reserved for future issuance under the Employee Plan.
Once executives have reached the maximum purchases under the Employee Plan, the Sixth Amended and Restated Executive Stock Purchase Plan (the “Executive Plan”) permits all eligible executives to purchase AutoZone’s common stock up to 25 percent of his or her annual salary and bonus. Purchases by executives under the Executive Plan were 997, 1,204 and 1,483 shares in fiscal 2021, 2020 and 2019, respectively. At August 28, 2021, 234,364 shares of common stock were reserved for future issuance under the Executive Plan.
Stock Performance Graph
The graph below presents changes in the value of AutoZone’s stock as compared to Standard & Poor’s 500 Composite Index (“S&P 500”) and to Standard & Poor’s Retail Index (“S&P Retail Index”) for the five-year period beginning August 27, 2016 and ending August 28, 2021.
Item 6. Reserved
Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
We are the leading retailer, and a leading distributor, of automotive replacement parts and accessories in the Americas. We began operations in 1979 and at August 28, 2021, operated 6,051 stores in the U.S., 664 stores in Mexico and 52 stores in Brazil. Each store carries an extensive product line for cars, sport utility vehicles, vans and light trucks, including new and remanufactured automotive hard parts, maintenance items, accessories and non-automotive products. At August 28, 2021, in 5,179 of our domestic stores, we also had a commercial sales program that provides commercial credit and prompt delivery of parts and other products to local, regional and national repair garages, dealers, service stations and public sector accounts. We also have commercial programs in all stores in Mexico and Brazil. We also sell the ALLDATA brand automotive diagnostic, repair and shop management software through www.alldata.com. Additionally, we sell automotive hard parts, maintenance items, accessories and non-automotive products through www.autozone.com, and our commercial customers can make purchases through www.autozonepro.com. We also provide product information on our Duralast branded products through www.duralastparts.com. We do not derive revenue from automotive repair or installation services.
COVID-19 continues to impact numerous aspects of our business. Our sales remain at record levels as we have experienced unprecedented customer demand for our products during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we believe that many of our customers have benefitted from pandemic-related government stimulus and benefits. Our main priority continues to be the health, safety and well-being of our customers and AutoZoners. We continue to invest in supplies for the protection of our employees and customers and increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting our stores. For fiscal 2021, we incurred approximately $43.0 million in pandemic related expenses, including Emergency Time-Off benefit enhancements for both full-time and part-time employees as compared to approximately $83.9 million in the comparable prior year period.
The long-term impact to our business remains unknown as we are unable to accurately predict the impact that COVID-19 will have due to numerous uncertainties, including the severity of the disease, the duration of the outbreak, the likelihood of additional variants and resurgences of the outbreak, actions that may be taken by governmental authorities in response to the disease, the timing, distribution, efficacy and public acceptance of vaccines, and unintended consequences of the foregoing. Furthermore, the continuing pandemic and related economic uncertainty may result in prolonged disruption and volatility to our business and magnify certain risks, including risks associated with sourcing quality merchandise domestically and outside the U.S.; our ability to promptly adjust inventory levels to meet fluctuations in customer demand; our ability to comply with complex and evolving laws and regulations related to customers’ and AutoZoners’ health and safety; our ability to open new store locations and expand or remodel existing stores; and our ability to hire and train qualified employees to address temporary or sustained labor shortages.
For fiscal 2021, we achieved record net income of $2.170 billion, a 25.2% increase over the prior year, and sales growth of $1.998 billion, a 15.8% increase over the prior year. Domestic commercial sales increased 22.6%, which represents approximately 23% of our total sales. Both our retail sales and commercial sales grew this past year as we continue to experience unprecedented demand for our products during the COVID-19 pandemic and make progress on our initiatives aimed at improving our ability to say “Yes” to our customers more frequently, drive traffic to our stores and accelerate our commercial growth.
Our business is impacted by various factors within the economy that affect both our consumer and our industry, including but not limited to fuel costs, wage rates, supply chain disruptions, hiring and other economic conditions, including for fiscal 2021 and 2020, the effects of, and responses to, COVID-19. Given the nature of these macroeconomic factors, we cannot predict whether or for how long certain trends will continue, nor can we predict to what degree these trends will impact us in the future.
One macroeconomic factor affecting our customers and our industry during fiscal 2021 was gas prices. During fiscal 2021, the average price per gallon of unleaded gasoline in the U.S. was $2.62, compared to $2.32 during fiscal 2020. We believe fluctuations in gas prices impact our customers’ level of disposable income. With approximately 10 billion gallons of unleaded gas consumption each month across the U.S., each $1 decrease at the pump contributes approximately $10 billion of additional spending capacity to consumers each month. Given the unpredictability of gas prices, we cannot predict whether gas prices will increase or decrease, nor can we predict how any future changes in gas prices will impact our sales in future periods.
We have also experienced continued accelerated pressure on wages in the U.S. during fiscal 2021. Some of this is attributed to regulatory changes in certain states and municipalities, while the larger portion is being driven by general market pressures and some specific actions taken recently by other retailers. The regulatory changes are expected to continue, as evidenced by the areas that have passed legislation to increase employees’ wages substantially over the next few years, but we are still assessing to what degree these changes will impact our earnings growth in future periods.
During fiscal 2021, failure and maintenance related categories represented the largest portion of our sales mix, at approximately 83% of total sales, with failure related categories continuing to comprise our largest set of categories. While we have not experienced any fundamental shifts in our category sales mix as compared to previous years, in our domestic stores we continue to see a slight increase in mix of sales of the discretionary category as compared to last year. We believe the improvement in this sales category resulted from the pandemic as many of our customers continue to have more time to work on discretionary projects.
The two statistics we believe have the closest correlation to our market growth over the long-term are miles driven and the number of seven year old or older vehicles on the road.
We believe as the number of miles driven increases, consumers’ vehicles are more likely to need service and maintenance, resulting in an increase in the need for automotive hard parts and maintenance items. While over the long-term we have seen a close correlation between our net sales and the number of miles driven, we have also seen certain time frames of minimal correlation in sales performance and miles driven. During the periods of minimal correlation between net sales and miles driven, we believe net sales have been positively impacted by other factors, including macroeconomic factors and the number of seven year old or older vehicles on the road. Since the beginning of the fiscal year and through July 2021 (latest publicly available information), miles driven in the U.S. decreased by 5.2% compared to the same period in the prior year. We believe this decrease is a result of the pandemic, but we are unable to predict if this decline will continue and are uncertain of the impact it will have to our business.
Seven Year Old or Older Vehicles
According to the latest data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, new light vehicle sales for the year ended August 2021 increased 11.5% as compared to the comparable prior year period. We estimate vehicles are driven an average of approximately 12,500 miles each year. In seven years, the average miles driven equates to approximately 87,500 miles. Our experience is that at this point in a vehicle’s life, most vehicles are not covered by warranties and increased maintenance is needed to keep the vehicle operating.
According to the latest data provided by the Auto Care Association, as of January 1, 2021, the average age of light vehicles on the road was 12.1 years. The average age of light vehicles has exceeded 11 years since 2012.
We expect the aging vehicle population to continue to increase as consumers keep their cars longer in an effort to save money. Additionally, there is increased demand for used vehicles as a result of new vehicle inventory shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the number of seven year old or older vehicles on the road increases, we expect an increase in demand for the products we sell.
Results of Operations
The following table highlights selected financial information over the last 5 years:
Fiscal Year Ended August
(in thousands, except per share data, same store sales and selected operating data)
Income Statement Data
Cost of sales, including warehouse and delivery expenses
Operating, selling, general and administrative expenses
Interest expense, net
Income before income taxes
Income tax expense(4)
Diluted earnings per share(4)
Weighted average shares for diluted earnings per share(4)
Same Store Sales
Increase in domestic comparable store net sales(5)
Balance Sheet Data
Operating lease right-of-use assets(6)
Working capital (deficit)
Finance lease liabilities, less current portion(6)
Operating lease liabilities, less current portion(6)
Selected Operating Data
Number of locations at beginning of year
Net new locations
Number of locations at end of year
AutoZone domestic commercial programs
Inventory per location (in thousands)
Total AutoZone store square footage (in thousands)
Average square footage per AutoZone store
Increase in AutoZone store square footage
Average net sales per AutoZone store (in thousands)
Net sales per AutoZone store average square foot
Total employees at end of year (in thousands)
Accounts payable to inventory ratio
After-tax return on invested capital(9)
Adjusted debt to EBITDAR(10)
Net cash provided by operating activities (in thousands)(4)
Cash flow before share repurchases and changes in debt (in thousands)(11)
Share repurchases (in thousands)(12)
Number of shares repurchased (in thousands)(12)
Fiscal 2021 Compared with Fiscal 2020
For the fiscal year ended August 28, 2021, we reported net sales of $14.630 billion compared with $12.632 billion for the year ended August 29, 2020, a 15.8% increase from fiscal 2020. This growth was driven primarily by a domestic same store sales increase of 13.6% and net sales of $215.8 million from new stores. Domestic commercial sales increased $617.7 million, or 22.6%, over domestic commercial sales for fiscal 2020.
At August 28, 2021, we operated 6,051 domestic stores, 664 in Mexico and 52 in Brazil, compared with 5,885 domestic stores, 621 in Mexico and 43 in Brazil at August 29, 2020. We reported a total auto parts segment (domestic, Mexico and Brazil) sales increase of 15.9% for fiscal 2021.
Gross profit for fiscal 2021 was $7.718 billion, or 52.8% of net sales, an 85 basis point decrease compared with $6.771 billion, or 53.6% of net sales for fiscal 2020. The decrease in gross margin was primarily driven by the initiatives to accelerate growth in our commercial business.
Operating, selling, general and administrative expenses for fiscal 2021 increased to $4.773 billion, or 32.6% of net sales, from $4.353 billion, or 34.5% of net sales for fiscal 2020. The reduction in operating expenses as a percentage of sales was driven by strong sales growth and a decrease in pandemic related expenses.
Interest expense, net for fiscal 2021 was $195.3 million compared with $201.2 million during fiscal 2020. Average borrowings for fiscal 2021 were $5.401 billion, compared with $5.393 billion for fiscal 2020. Weighted average borrowing rates were 3.28% and 3.26% for fiscal 2021 and 2020, respectively.
Our effective income tax rate was 21.1% of pre-tax income for fiscal 2021 compared to 21.8% for fiscal 2020. The decrease in the tax rate was primarily attributable to an increased benefit from stock options exercised during fiscal 2021 compared to fiscal 2020. The benefit of stock options exercised for fiscal 2021 was $56.4 million compared to $20.9 million for fiscal 2020 (see “Note D – Income Taxes” in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements).
Net income for fiscal 2021 increased by 25.2% to $2.170 billion, and diluted earnings per share increased 32.3% to $95.19 from $71.93 in fiscal 2020. The impact on the fiscal 2021 diluted earnings per share from stock repurchases was an increase of $5.13.
Fiscal 2020 Compared with Fiscal 2019
A discussion of changes in our results of operations from fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2020 has been omitted from this Annual Report on Form 10-K, but may be found in “Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended August 29, 2020, filed with the SEC on October 26, 2020, which is available free of charge on the SECs website at www.sec.gov and at www.autozone.com, by clicking “Investor Relations” located at the bottom of the page.
Each of the first three quarters of our fiscal year consists of 12 weeks, and the fourth quarter consisted of 16 weeks in 2021 and 2020 and 17 weeks in 2019. Because the fourth quarter contains seasonally high sales volume and consists of 16 or 17 weeks, compared with 12 weeks for each of the first three quarters, our fourth quarter represents a disproportionate share of our annual net sales and net income. The fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021 represented 33.6% of annual sales and 36.2% of net income; the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020 represented 36.0% of annual sales and 42.7% of net income; and the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019 represented 33.6% of annual sales and 35.0% of net income.
Liquidity and Capital Resources
The primary source of our liquidity is our cash flows realized through the sale of automotive parts, products, and accessories. Unprecedented customer demand from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued progress on our initiatives improved our operating performance for the fiscal year, which drove a substantial increase in cash flows from operations. We believe that our cash generated from operating activities, available cash reserves and available credit, supplemented with our long-term borrowings will provide ample liquidity to fund our operations while allowing us to make strategic investments to support long-term growth initiatives and return excess cash to shareholders in the form of share repurchases. As of August 28, 2021, we held $1.171 billion of cash and cash equivalents, as well as $1.998 billion in undrawn capacity on our revolving credit facility. We believe our sources of liquidity will continue to be adequate to fund our operations and investments to grow our business, repay our debt as it becomes due and fund our share repurchases over the short-term and long-term. In addition, we believe we have the ability to obtain alternative sources of financing, if necessary.
Net cash provided by operating activities was $3.519 billion in 2021, $2.720 billion in 2020 and $2.129 billion in 2019. Cash flows from operations are favorable compared to last year primarily due to favorable changes in accounts payable, driven by higher sustained inventory purchase volume in fiscal 2021 as compared to fiscal 2020, and growth in net income due to accelerated sales growth as a result of the pandemic.
Our net cash flows used in investing activities were $601.8 million in fiscal 2021, $497.9 million in fiscal 2020 and $491.8 million in fiscal 2019. The increase in net cash used in investing activities in fiscal 2021, compared to fiscal 2020, was due to an increase in capital expenditures. We invested $621.8 million in capital assets in fiscal 2021, $457.7 million in fiscal 2020 and $496.1 million in fiscal 2019. The increase in capital expenditures from fiscal 2020 to fiscal 2021 was primarily driven by increased store openings. We had 218 net new store openings for fiscal 2021, 138 for fiscal 2020 and 209 for fiscal 2019. We invest a portion of our assets held by our wholly owned insurance captive in marketable debt securities. We purchased $63.7 million in marketable debt securities in fiscal 2021, $90.9 million in fiscal 2020 and $55.5 million in fiscal 2019. We had proceeds from the sale of marketable debt securities of $95.4 million in fiscal 2021, $84.2 million in fiscal 2020 and $53.1 million in fiscal 2019.
Net cash used in financing activities was $3.5 billion in fiscal 2021, $643.6 million in fiscal 2020 and $1.674 billion in fiscal 2019. The net cash used in financing activities reflected purchases of treasury stock, which totaled $3.378 billion for fiscal 2021, $930.9 million for fiscal 2020 and $2.005 billion for fiscal 2019. The increase in purchases of treasury stock for fiscal 2021 in comparison to fiscal 2020 was due to resuming our share repurchase program which was temporarily suspended in fiscal 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The treasury stock purchases in fiscal 2021, 2020 and 2019 were primarily funded by cash flows from operations. During the year ended August 28, 2021, we repaid our $250 million 2.500% Senior Notes due April 2021, which were callable at par in March 2021. We did not issue any new debt in fiscal 2021, and issued $1.850 billion and $750 million in fiscal 2020 and 2019, respectively. In fiscal 2020, the proceeds from the issuance of debt were used for general corporate purposes, repayment of our outstanding commercial paper and repayment of our $500 million Senior Notes due in November 2020 which were callable at par in August 2020. In fiscal 2019, the proceeds from the issuance of debt were used to repay a portion of our outstanding commercial paper borrowings, our $250 million Senior Notes due in April 2019 and for general corporate purposes.
We did not have any commercial paper or short term borrowing activity during fiscal 2021. Net repayments of commercial paper and short term borrowings were $1.030 billion and $295.3 million for 2020 and 2019, respectively.
During fiscal 2022, we expect to increase the investment in our business as compared to fiscal 2021. Our investments are expected to be directed primarily to expansion of our store base and supply chain to fuel the growth of our domestic and Mexico businesses, which includes new stores, including mega hubs, as well as distribution center expansions and remodels. The amount of investments in our new stores is impacted by different factors, including whether the building and land are purchased (requiring higher investment) or leased (generally lower investment) and whether such buildings are located in the U.S., Mexico or Brazil, or located in urban or rural areas.
During fiscal 2021 our capital expenditures increased by approximately 36%, compared to a decrease of 8% and 5%, for fiscal 2020 and 2019 respectively. Fiscal 2021 capital expenditures increased significantly due to delays in capital spending for the third and fourth quarter of fiscal 2020 related to COVID-19.
In addition to building and land costs, our new stores require working capital, predominantly for inventories. Historically, we have negotiated extended payment terms from suppliers, reducing the working capital required and resulting in a high accounts payable to inventory ratio. We plan to continue leveraging our inventory purchases; however, our ability to do so may be limited by our vendors’ capacity to factor their receivables from us. Certain vendors participate in arrangements with financial institutions whereby they factor their AutoZone receivables, allowing them to receive early payment from the financial institution on our invoices at a discounted rate. The terms of these agreements are between the vendor and the financial institution. Upon request from the vendor, we confirm to the vendor’s financial institution the balances owed to the vendor, the due date and agree to waive any right of offset to the confirmed balances. A downgrade in our credit or changes in the financial markets may limit the financial institutions’ willingness to participate in these arrangements, which may result in the vendor wanting to renegotiate payment terms. A reduction in payment terms would increase the working capital required to fund future inventory investments. Extended payment terms from our vendors have allowed us to continue our high accounts payable to inventory ratio. We had an accounts payable to inventory ratio of 129.6% at August 28, 2021 and 115.3% at August 29, 2020. The increase from fiscal 2020 was primarily due to increased accounts payable purchases with favorable vendor terms and higher inventory turns.
Depending on the timing and magnitude of our future investments (either in the form of leased or purchased properties or acquisitions), we anticipate that we will rely primarily on internally generated funds and available borrowing capacity to support a majority of our capital expenditures, working capital requirements and stock repurchases. The balance may be funded through new borrowings. We anticipate we will be able to obtain such financing in view of our credit ratings and favorable experiences in the debt markets in the past.
Our cash balances are held in various locations around the world. As of August 28, 2021, and August 29, 2020, cash and cash equivalents of $80.4 million and $62.4 million, respectively, were held outside of the U.S. and were generally utilized to support the liquidity needs in our foreign operations.
For the fiscal year ended August 28, 2021, our adjusted after-tax return on invested capital (“ROIC”), which is a non-GAAP measure, was 41.0% as compared to 35.7% for the comparable prior year period. Adjusted ROIC is calculated as after-tax operating profit (excluding rent charges) divided by invested capital (which includes a factor to capitalize operating leases). We use adjusted ROIC to evaluate whether we are effectively using our capital resources and believe it is an important indicator of our overall operating performance. Refer to the “Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures” section for further details of our calculation.
We entered into a Master Extension, New Commitment and Amendment Agreement dated as of November 18, 2017 (the “Extension Amendment”) to the Third Amended and Restated Credit Agreement dated as of November 18, 2016, as amended, modified, extended or restated from time to time (the “Revolving Credit Agreement”). Under the Extension Amendment: (i) our borrowing capacity under the Revolving Credit Agreement was increased from $1.6 billion to $2.0 billion; (ii) the maximum borrowing under the Revolving Credit Agreement may, at our option, subject to lenders approval, be increased from $2.0 billion to $2.4 billion; (iii) the termination date of the Revolving Credit Agreement was extended from November 18, 2021 until November 18, 2022; and (iv) we have the option to make one additional written request of the lenders to extend the termination date then in effect for an additional year. Under the Revolving Credit Agreement, we may borrow funds consisting of Eurodollar loans, base rate loans or a combination of both. Interest accrues on Eurodollar loans at a defined Eurodollar rate, defined as LIBOR plus the applicable percentage, as defined in the Revolving Credit Agreement, depending upon our senior, unsecured, (non-credit enhanced) long-term debt ratings. Interest accrues on base rate loans as defined in the Revolving Credit Agreement.
As of August 28, 2021, we had no outstanding borrowings and $1.7 million of outstanding letters of credit under the Revolving Credit Agreement. We intend to amend and restate our Revolving Credit Agreement and anticipate closing the agreement during the first quarter of fiscal year 2022.
Under our Revolving Credit Agreement, covenants include restrictions on liens, a maximum debt to earnings ratio, a minimum fixed charge coverage ratio and a change of control provision that may require acceleration of the repayment obligations under certain circumstances.
The Revolving Credit Agreement requires that our consolidated interest coverage ratio as of the last day of each quarter shall be no less than 2.5:1. This ratio is defined as the ratio of (i) consolidated earnings before interest, taxes and rents to (ii) consolidated interest expense plus consolidated rents. Our consolidated interest coverage ratio as of August 28, 2021 was 6.9:1.
On April 3, 2020, we entered into a 364-Day Credit Agreement (the “364-Day Credit Agreement”) to supplement our existing Revolving Credit Agreement. The 364-Day Credit Agreement provided for loans in the aggregate principal amount of up to $750 million. The 364-Day Credit Agreement had a termination date of, and any amounts borrowed under the 364-Day Credit Agreement were due and payable on April 2, 2021. Revolving loans under the 364-Day Credit Agreement could be base rate loans, Eurodollar loans, or a combination of both at our election.
Effective February 2021, we terminated the 364-Day Credit Agreement. There were no borrowings outstanding under the 364-Day Credit Agreement. We entered into the 364-Day Agreement to augment our access to liquidity due to the macroeconomic conditions existing at the time, and we determined the additional access to liquidity was no longer necessary.
As of August 28, 2021, the $500 million 3.700% Senior Notes due April 2022 were classified as long-term in the Consolidated Balance Sheets as we had the ability and intent to refinance them on a long-term basis through available capacity in our revolving credit facility. As of August 28, 2021, we had $1.998 billion of availability under our $2.0 billion Revolving Credit Agreement, which would allow us to replace these short-term obligations with a long-term financing facility.
On March 15, 2021, we repaid the $250 million 2.500% Senior Notes due April 2021 which were callable at par in March 2021.
On August 14, 2020, we issued $600 million in 1.650% Senior Notes due January 2031 under our automatic shelf registration statement on Form S-3, filed with the SEC on April 4, 2019 (File No. 333-230719) (the “2019 Shelf Registration Statement”). The 2019 Shelf Registration Statement allows us to sell an indeterminate amount in debt securities to fund general corporate purposes, including repaying, redeeming or repurchasing outstanding debt and for working capital, capital expenditures, new store openings, stock repurchases and acquisitions. Proceeds from the debt issuance were used for general corporate purposes, including the repayment of the $500 million in 4.000% Senior Notes due in November 2020 that were callable at par in August 2020.
On March 30, 2020, we issued $500 million in 3.625% Senior Notes due April 2025 and $750 million in 4.000% Senior Notes due April 2030 under the 2019 Shelf Registration Statement. Proceeds from the debt issuance were used to repay a portion of the outstanding commercial paper borrowings and for other general corporate purposes.
On April 18, 2019, we issued $300 million in 3.125% Senior Notes due April 2024 and $450 million in 3.750% Senior Notes due April 2029 under the 2019 Shelf Registration Statement. Proceeds from the debt issuance were used to repay a portion of our outstanding commercial paper borrowings, the $250 million in 1.625% Senior Notes due in April 2019 and for other general corporate purposes.
All Senior Notes are subject to an interest rate adjustment if the debt ratings assigned are downgraded (as defined in the agreements). Further, the Senior Notes contain a provision that repayment may be accelerated if we experience a change in control (as defined in the agreements). Our borrowings under our Senior Notes contain minimal covenants, primarily restrictions on liens, sale and leaseback transactions and consolidations, mergers and the sale of assets. All of the repayment obligations under our borrowing arrangements may be accelerated and come due prior to the applicable scheduled payment date if covenants are breached or an event of default occurs. Interest is paid on a semi-annual basis.
As of August 28, 2021, we were in compliance with all covenants and expect to remain in compliance with all covenants under our borrowing arrangements.
We also maintain a letter of credit facility that allows us to request the participating bank to issue letters of credit on our behalf up to an aggregate amount of $25 million. The letter of credit facility is in addition to the letters of credit that may be issued under the Revolving Credit Agreement. As of August 28, 2021, we had $23.9 million in letters of credit outstanding under the letter of credit facility which expires in June 2022.
In addition to the outstanding letters of credit issued under the committed facility discussed above, we had $136.8 million in letters of credit outstanding as of August 28, 2021. These letters of credit have various maturity dates and were issued on an uncommitted basis.
For the fiscal year ended August 28, 2021, our adjusted debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, rent and share-based compensation expense (“EBITDAR”) ratio was 2.0:1 as compared to 2.4:1 as of the comparable prior year end. We calculate adjusted debt as the sum of total debt, finance lease liabilities and rent times six; and we calculate adjusted EBITDAR by adding interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, rent and share-based compensation expense to net income. We target our debt levels to a specified ratio of adjusted debt to EBITDAR in order to maintain our investment grade credit ratings and believe this is important information for the management of our debt levels.
Management expects the ratio of adjusted debt to EBITDAR to return to pre-pandemic levels in the future, increasing debt levels. Once the target ratio is achieved, to the extent adjusted EBITDAR increases, we expect our debt levels to increase; conversely, if adjusted EBITDAR decreases, we would expect our debt levels to decrease. Refer to the “Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures” section for further details of our calculation.
During 1998, we announced a program permitting us to repurchase a portion of our outstanding shares not to exceed a dollar maximum established by our Board of Directors (the “Board”). On December 15, 2020, the Board voted to increase the authorization by $1.5 billion. On March 23, 2021, the Board voted to increase the repurchase authorization by an additional $1.5 billion, which raised the total value of shares authorized to be repurchased to $26.15 billion. From January 1998 to August 28, 2021, we have repurchased a total of 150.3 million shares at an aggregate cost of $25.732 billion. We repurchased 2.6 million shares of common stock at an aggregate cost of $3.378 billion during fiscal 2021, 826 thousand shares of common stock at an aggregate cost of $930.9 million during fiscal 2020 and 2.2 million shares of common stock at an aggregate cost of $2.005 billion during fiscal 2019. The increase in purchases of treasury stock for fiscal 2021 compared to fiscal 2020 was due to the temporary suspension of the share repurchase program during fiscal 2020 in order to preserve cash as a result of the uncertainty related to the pandemic. Purchases under the program resumed beginning in the first quarter of fiscal 2021. Considering cumulative repurchases as of August 28, 2021, we had $417.6 million remaining under the Board’s authorization to repurchase our common stock. We will continue to evaluate current and expected business conditions and adjust the level of share repurchases under our share repurchase program as we deem appropriate.
For the fiscal year ended August 28, 2021, cash flow before share repurchases and changes in debt was $3.049 billion as compared to $2.185 billion during the comparable prior year period. Cash flow before share repurchases and changes in debt is calculated as the net increase or decrease in cash and cash equivalents less net increases or decreases in debt (excluding deferred financing costs) plus share repurchases. We use cash flow before share repurchases and changes in debt to calculate the cash flows remaining and available. We believe this is important information regarding our allocation of available capital where we prioritize investments in the business and utilize the remaining funds to repurchase shares, while maintaining debt levels that support our investment grade credit ratings. Refer to the “Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures” section for further details of our calculation.
On October 5, 2021, the Board voted to authorize the repurchase of an additional $1.5 billion of our common stock in connection with our ongoing share repurchase program. Since the inception of the repurchase program in 1998, the Board has authorized $27.65 billion in share repurchases. Subsequent to August 28, 2021 and through October 18, 2021, we have repurchased 220,022 shares of common stock at an aggregate cost of $362.8 million. Considering the cumulative repurchases and the increase in authorization subsequent to August 28, 2021 and through October 18, 2021, we have $1.555 billion remaining under the Board’s authorization to repurchase its common stock.
The following table shows our significant contractual obligations as of August 28, 2021:
Payment Due by Period
|(1)||Debt balances represent principal maturities, excluding interest, discounts, and debt issuance costs.|
|(2)||Represents obligations for interest payments on long-term debt.|
|(3)||Operating and finance lease obligations include related interest in accordance with ASU 2016-02, Leases (Topic 842).|
|(4)||Self-insurance reserves reflect estimates based on actuarial calculations and are presented net of insurance receivables. Although these obligations do not have scheduled maturities, the timing of future payments are predictable based upon historical patterns. Accordingly, we reflect the net present value of these obligations in our Consolidated Balance Sheets.|
Our tax liability for uncertain tax positions, including interest and penalties, was $31.8 million at August 28, 2021. Approximately $3.0 million is classified as current liabilities and $28.8 million is classified as long-term liabilities. We did not reflect these obligations in the table above as we are unable to make an estimate of the timing of payments of the long-term liabilities due to uncertainties in the timing and amounts of the settlement of these tax positions.
Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements
The following table reflects outstanding letters of credit and surety bonds as of August 28, 2021:
Standby letters of credit
A substantial portion of the outstanding standby letters of credit (which are primarily renewed on an annual basis) and surety bonds are used to cover reimbursement obligations to our workers’ compensation carriers.
There are no additional contingent liabilities associated with these instruments as the underlying liabilities are already reflected in our Consolidated Balance Sheets. The standby letters of credit and surety bond arrangements expire within one year but have automatic renewal clauses.
Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measures
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” includes certain financial measures not derived in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (“GAAP”). These non-GAAP financial measures provide additional information for determining our optimum capital structure and are used to assist management in evaluating performance and in making appropriate business decisions to maximize stockholders’ value.
Non-GAAP financial measures should not be used as a substitute for GAAP financial measures, or considered in isolation, for the purpose of analyzing our operating performance, financial position or cash flows. However, we have presented the non-GAAP financial measures, as we believe they provide additional information that is useful to investors as it indicates more clearly our comparative year-to-year operating results. Furthermore, our management and Compensation Committee of the Board use the above-mentioned non-GAAP financial measures to analyze and compare our underlying operating results and use select measurements to determine payments of performance-based compensation. We have included a reconciliation of this information to the most comparable GAAP measures in the following reconciliation tables.
Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measure: Cash Flow Before Share Repurchases and Changes in Debt
The following table reconciles net increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents to cash flow before share repurchases and changes in debt, which is presented in “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations”:
Fiscal Year Ended August
Net cash provided by/(used in):
Effect of exchange rate changes on cash
Net increase/(decrease) in cash and cash equivalents
Less: increase/(decrease) in debt, excluding deferred financing costs
Plus: Share repurchases
Cash flow before share repurchases and changes in debt
|(1)||During the third quarter of fiscal 2020, the Company temporarily suspended share repurchases under the share repurchase program in response to COVID-19.|
Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measure: Adjusted After-tax ROIC
The following table calculates the percentage of ROIC. ROIC is calculated as after-tax operating profit (excluding rent) divided by invested capital (which includes a factor to capitalize operating leases). The ROIC percentages are presented in “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations”:
Fiscal Year Ended August
(in thousands, except percentage)
Impairment before tax
Pension termination charges before tax
Deferred tax liabilities, net of repatriation tax(5)
Adjusted after-tax return
Average stockholders’ deficit(6)
Add: Rent x 6(3)(7)
Average finance lease liabilities(6)
Adjusted after-tax ROIC
Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Financial Measure: Adjusted Debt to EBITDAR
The following table calculates the ratio of adjusted debt to EBITDAR. Adjusted debt to EBITDAR is calculated as the sum of total debt, financing lease liabilities and annual rents times six; divided by net income plus interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, rent and share-based compensation expense. The adjusted debt to EBITDAR ratios are presented in “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations”:
Fiscal Year Ended August
(in thousands, except ratio)
Add: Impairment before tax
Pension termination charges before tax
Add: Interest expense
Income tax expense
Add: Depreciation and amortization expense
Financing lease liabilities
Add: Rent x 6(3)(7)