He tried to fix Macy's. Now he is the new Tractor Supply CEO

Posted December 5, 2019 11:41 a.m. EST

— Macy's can't catch a break. The struggling department store chain's stock is down nearly 50% this year. And now it is losing a top executive to a farming supplies chain.

Hal Lawton, a veteran of eBay and Home Depot who only joined Macy's as president in September 2017, said Thursday that he's leaving to become CEO of Tractor Supply, a Brentwood, Tennessee-based chain that describes itself as "a one-stop shop for recreational farmers, ranchers and all those who enjoy living the rural lifestyle."

In addition to agricultural supplies, the company also sells toy tractors from Deere and other farm-themed merchandise.

Shares of Tractor Supply rose about 1% on the news Thursday. The stock is now up about 16% in 2019. Macy's stock rose 1% Thursday.

Lawton will join Tractor Supply in January and also serve on its board. He is replacing current CEO Greg Sandfort, who had already announced plans to retire.

"I am extremely excited and honored to join Tractor Supply as I have long admired the company for its strong brand and focus on serving the Out Here lifestyle," Lawson said in a statement, a reference to the company's "The Stuff You Need Out Here" slogan.

Despite concerns about tariffs hurting American farmers. Tractor Supply has been a top retailer for the past few years.

The company, which has more than 1,800 stores across the country, as well as the specialty pet store chain Petsense, is expected to post revenue of nearly $9 billion in 2020, an annual increase of about 7%. Tractor Supply's earnings per share are expected to climb at an average annual rate of nearly 12% for the next five years, according to analyst estimates tracked by Refinitiv.

Contrast that with struggling Macy's, which has been forced to close stores as more shoppers shun department stores and suburban shopping malls in favor of Amazon, Walmart and Target -- both online and in their physical stores. Macy's sales are expected to dip slightly next year while profits are expected to slide about 20% a year for the next few years, according to Refinitiv.

Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette put a brave face on the news. In a statement, praising Lawton for his "significant contributions to the business over the past two years" and said he was confident that Macy's will do well this holiday season and beyond.

Wall Street, as well as consumers, clearly beg to differ. Macy's is the worst-performing stock in the S&P 500 this year. So it looks like Lawton is leaving a company in serious trouble for one with a much brighter future.

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