AutoZone, Inc. (AZO) Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

MarketsMotley Fool

AutoZone, Inc. (NYSE: AZO)Q4 2018 Earnings Conference CallSeptember 18, 2018, 9:00 a.m. CT

Contents:

Continue Reading Below

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good morning, and welcome to the AutoZone Conference Call. Your lines have been placed on listen-only until the question-and-answer session of the conference. Please be advised today's call is being recorded. If you have any objections, please disconnect at this time.

This conference call will discuss AutoZone's Fourth Quarter Earnings Release. Bill Rhodes, the Company's Chairman, President, and CEO, will be making a short presentation on the highlights of the quarter. The conference call will end promptly at 10:00 AM Central Time, 11:00 AM Eastern Time.

Before Mr. Rhodes begins, the Company has requested that you listen to the following statement regarding forward-looking statements.

(Prerecorded) Brian Campbell -- Vice President, Treasurer, Investor Relations and Tax

Certain statements contained in this presentation are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements typically use words such as believe, anticipate, should, intend, plan, will, expect, estimate, project, position, strategy 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, access to available and feasible financing, the impact of recessionary conditions, consumer debt levels, changes in laws or regulations, war and the prospect of war, including terrorist activity, inflation, the ability to hire and retain qualified employees, construction delays, the compromising of the confidentiality, availability, or integrity of information, including cyber-attacks, and raw material costs of our suppliers. Certain of these risks are discussed in more detail in the Risk Factors section contained in Item 1A under Part 1 of the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended August 26, 2017, and these risk factors should be read carefully.

10 stocks we like better than AutoZoneWhen investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has quadrupled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now... and AutoZone wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

Click here to learn about these picks!

*Stock Advisor returns as of August 6, 2018

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. 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. Actual results may materially differ from anticipated results.

Operator

And now, I will hand the call over to Mr. Bill Rhodes. You may now begin.

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning. And thank you for joining us today for AutoZone's 2018 Fourth Quarter Conference Call. With me today are Bill Giles, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, and Brian Campbell, Vice President, Treasurer, Investor Relations and Tax. Regarding the fourth quarter, I hope you've had an opportunity to read our press release and learn about the quarter's results. If not, the press release, along with slides complementing our comments today, are available on our Website www.autozoneinc.com. Please click on quarterly earnings conference calls to see them.

To begin this morning, I want to thank all AutoZoners across the company for their hard word, dedication, and commitment this past quarter and year. Our sales results for the fiscal fourth quarter improved from last quarter, with May and August outperforming June and July. All months experienced positive comp store sales in both retail and commercial. Sales results, as many of you would expect, were stronger in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwestern markets as our harsh winter created parts failures in these markets. Our sales results, however, were noticeably below our expectations in several Western markets. We attribute this sluggishness out west to comparatively mild and rainy weather for much of the summer versus last year.

While our sales performance improved, we certainly felt we had opportunities to do even better. We executed a significant amount of changes in the second half of Fiscal 2018, including product category changeovers, supply chain changes, and we stopped our digital ship-to-home promotions. In hindsight, this was a tremendous amount of simultaneous change, and our execution, while terrific in many areas, didn't meet our standard of flawless and negatively impacted our business.

As we enter the new fiscal year, most of these are behind us or improving quickly. While we continued to gain share, the more robust market share gains we experienced in the first half of the fiscal year subsided in the second half. We are committed to regaining that momentum very quickly. We remain encouraged by the health of the consumer and the health of our business. We're bullish on our business for the new year.

We continue to make good progress on our initiatives that are aimed at improving our ability to say yes to our customers more frequently, drive traffic to our stores, and accelerate our commercial business. To remind everyone, those initiatives for the past year included improving local market inventory availability, growing our US commercial business, leveraging the Internet, and investing in IT at accelerated rates across the entire enterprise.

Regarding enhancing parts coverage in the United States, we continued expanding our supply chain network in the quarter, adding three new mega hub stores and 78 new stores. In addition to opening two new domestic distribution centers over the last five quarters and expanding another, we are extensively leveraging our hub network to provide expanded parts coverage at the local level, where the customer demands are immediate. As you'd expect, we study our sales results in markets that receive additional parts coverage with hubs, and we see noticeable increases in comp store sales when we open these locations.

We rely on our mega hubs to act as distribution nodes for hard-to-find parts for their network stores. We ended the year with 24 mega hubs, have been very pleased with their performance, and expect to open many more in Fiscal 2019. In our commercial business, we saw our best quarterly sales performance since Q1 2016, improving nearly 9%, while having opened fewer than 150 net commercial programs for the year. Our productivity per commercial program was very strong year-over-year. We were encouraged that this growth was from both winning more business with existing customers and gaining new customers. We are gaining more momentum and driving more sales through existing programs and customers while still adding new customers all along the way.

And, our accelerated investments and technological enhancements to improve our service and grow all of our businesses continues at a strong clip. We're investing at the highest levels ever for our company, to deliver on some pretty aggressive internally established goals. One of those goals that we've been focusing on is next day delivery. At quarter end, customers in 83 major metropolitan markets can place an order as late as 10:00 PM and have their order delivered by early afternoon the next day. Our expectation is a majority of our ship-to-home orders will be fulfilled this way in the future.

Although this is not a significant part of our sales mix today, it is growing rapidly and we believe it's another example of providing wow customer service and enhancing our value proposition to our customers. As we gain confidence in our ability to execute, we will begin more aggressively advertising this unique and differentiated service offering.

Before getting into more detail about the quarter, I want to share our perspective on some of the trends and tailwinds that our industry, and specifically our business, has seen. First, the customer appears to be getting healthier. And the rebound in our industry sales this summer illustrated that improvement. Some of this stems from the cold winter in a large part of the country that in turn increased demand of failure and maintenance related parts. Our business in cold weather markets easily outperformed the remainder of the country, with the spread in comp sales between 200-300 basis points throughout the quarter.

Surprisingly, we did not do as well out west, with comp sales noticeably weaker than other parts of the United States. We can attribute some of this weakness to a milder summer than last year, but we also believe we have some considerable opportunities for improvement. As I had said earlier, our quarter began very well in May; however, it softened in July only to reaccelerate again in August. While our overall sales improved for the quarter, we believe they should have been more robust. We had some significant vendor transitions in the second half of our fiscal year, and several of those transitions did not go as planned, resulting in unacceptable in stock positions and sales shortfalls in those particular categories.

We have addressed those challenges and feel we are better positioned heading into the new fiscal year. We also believe, once these transitions are successfully completed, we will be in improved competitive positions. And, as we opened our Ocala distribution center, reoptimized our supply chain, and implemented our final multiple frequency of delivery schedule changes, that too was a significant amount of change for the organization to absorb. And, we decided back in February, at the end of our second fiscal quarter, to eliminate online promotions for ship-to-home sales.

We were concerned about the potential channel conflict. After several months of being dark in promos, while competitors continued to promote, we became concerned that we potentially were or could negatively impact our customers' value proposition of us. As a result of eliminating promotions, those direct sales went from adding about 10 basis points to our comp to becoming a headwind in the quarter of roughly 30 basis points, or approximately 40 basis points lower comp in the second half of the year. While we were intentional with our removal of the promotions and believe long-term it may create more channel conflict, we recently reinstituted promotions to better assess their overall impact on traffic, both online and in store, and overall sales.

Combined, all of these various issues negatively impacted our sales performance in the quarter. While we will never flawlessly execute in every aspect of our business, this quarter we believe we had a disproportionate amount of opportunities and believe we have resolved most of them as we begin the new year. Over the last year, we've been highlighting accelerated wage pressures and the impact those pressures have on our operating expenses in the upcoming year. We plan on investing in wages for targeted positions across our hourly store teams this fall with specific emphasis on the most critical positions and our most tenured AutoZoners.

It is important to note, those wages changes will go into effect midway through this, our first quarter, of Fiscal 2019. It is also important to note, that means the first full quarter with the incremental expense will be our second quarter, which is always our most challenging profitability quarter. In addition, we accelerated our investments in employee benefits and information technology. These investments will cause operating expenses as a percent to sales to increase. However, we do expect these investments over the long-term to improve our performance.

In Fiscal 2018, our results included many moving pieces -- the sale of two businesses and related impairments, the new tax law, and this quarter the termination of our pension plan and related settlement charge. Our expectation for 2019 is it will include far fewer unusual items or moving pieces. However, it will include two significant items. In Fiscal 2018, we enjoyed only a portion of the lower effective tax rates as our fiscal year straddled the tax reform changes. Next year, we will receive the full benefit and our blended tax rate will decline from roughly 30% to closer to 24.5%.

Additionally, we will have a 53rd week, and our fourth quarter will include 17 weeks instead of the typical 16 weeks. To model the extra week, I encourage you to review Fiscal 2013, and specifically the fourth quarter. We broke out the financials for that week in our earnings release, showing how the extra week contributed to the quarter.

To conclude my comments on the macro economy, I'd say the consumer is healthy and we think 2019 can be a solid year for us and our industry. Now, let me provide more detail on the quarter. For the quarter, our sales increased 1.3% and our domestic same-store sales were up 2.2%. During the quarter, we opened 78 net new stores in the United States. For the year, we opened 153 net new stores and expect to open approximately 150 domestic stores in 2019. Our commercial business expanded by 8.8%, while opening 149 net new programs this year. Our commercial growth accelerated from last quarter's 7.3%. We again expect to open approximately 150 net new commercial programs for this fiscal year.

Currently, 85% of our domestic stores have a commercial program. During the quarter, we continued to expand in Mexico, opening 28 new stores. And we opened four new stores in Brazil. While we'd hoped to have up to 25 Brazil locations open by the end of the year, we expect these stores to open in Fiscal 2019. We've been doing business in Brazil since 2013, and we expect to accelerate our location expansions in 2019.

Regarding the Internet, we will continue to invest in our capabilities and in customer experience. Our goal is to create a seamless omnichannel experience for our customers, meeting them where, when, and how they want to interact with us. We remain focused on improving our closure rates, meaning converting customer requests for pricing and availability into sales. In the spirit of satisfying our customers, we are making ongoing system investments and enhancements to capture data about our customers' shopping patterns across all of our platforms, both domestically and internationally.

We understand we must be able to share information and process seamlessly between our stores, commercial shops, phone, and online experiences to meet all of our customers' needs. We expect our loyalty program, and its vast membership, to continue to help us mine customer shopping behaviors and grow sales materially in the future. This remains a significant focus for us in 2019.

As our primary objective remains growing our domestic retail and commercial businesses, we continued with our inventory availability initiatives to respond to the ever increasing challenge of parts proliferation in this industry. This past quarter, we opened three additional mega hub locations and now have 24 in operation. We are working diligently on the development of future sites, and we expect to open approximately 10 more in 2019. We now expect to ultimately operate a larger number of hubs and mega hubs than we previously planned. This number will evolve over time, however we feel a hub network, for us, is the most efficient way to provide enhanced local market availability.

Along with improving our local parts availability and assortment, we continue to manage this organization to provide exceptional service for our customer, provide our AutoZoners with a great place to work, with opportunities for advancement, and ensure we do it on a long-term profitable basis to provide strong returns for our shareholders. We will continue to stress the importance of going the extra mile to fulfill our customers' needs, regardless of how difficult the request.

Regarding Mexico, we opened 28 new stores this quarter and ended the year with 564 stores. We're planning to open another 40 stores next year. In the local currency, Mexico experience da solid quarter, while the exchange rate was a headwind to the reported US dollar sales. The peso exchange rate was 7.3% higher than last year's Q4 ending rate. Sales in our other businesses for the quarter were down 48% over last year's fourth quarter, due to the divestiture of our AutoAnything business and lower e-commerce ship-to-home sales.

As a reminder, our ALLDATA and e-commerce businesses make up this segment of sales. We recognize that most of our site traffic is providing information to our customers prior to purchase. Our e-commerce platform represents an important part of our omnichannel experience. We see customers doing lots of research to learn about the products and how to do repairs. While these businesses are small for us, the omnichannel experience is very important for our customer experience and we will continue to invest in this platform.

With continued aging of the car population, we continue to be optimistic regarding trends for the industry, both in DIY and DIFM. As new vehicle sales are near all-time highs and gas prices, while higher than last year, remain range sound in the $2.80 a gallon area, miles driven continue to increase. We, not surprisingly, desires lower gas prices as the lower end consumer benefits the most from lower gas prices relative to income.

There have also been many questions about the impact tariffs could have on our business in 2019. Up to this point, we have no experienced material cost increases from tariffs. As for those SKUs impacted, we have successfully passed the cost along in higher retails. However, a larger number of tariffs are slated to be imposed in the next couple of weeks. These tariffs should be more significant. In the short-term, we expect to be able to manage our way through any changes and we continue to expect to ultimately pass these costs along as the entire industry would be affected similarly.

Regarding commercial, we opened 58 net new programs during the quarter for 149 for the year. This was down from last year's 202 open programs. Our expectation is, we will continue to open new programs in the range of 150 in 2019. As we continue to improve our product assortments and availability, and as we make other refinements to our commercial offerings, we expect that our sales potential from this market will grow. Commercial continues to be the most significant mid-term growth opportunity for the company as we currently have approximately 3% market share and we are determined to substantially grow that over time.

We should also highlight another strong performance in return on invested capital, as we were able to finish our fourth quarter at 32.1%. We continue to be pleased with this metric as it is one of the best in all of hard lines retailing in all of hard lines retailing. However, our primary focus has been, and continues to be, that we ensure every incremental dollar of capital that we deploy in this business provides an acceptable return well in excess of our cost to capital. It is important to reinforce that we will always maintain our diligence regarding capital stewardship as the capital we invest is our investors' capital.

Before I pass the discussion over to Bill Giles to talk about our financial results, I'd like to thank and reinforce how appreciative we are to entire team's efforts to continue to meet and exceed our customers' wants, needs, and desires. All credit goes to our AutoZoners as we could not achieve our goals without their exceptional efforts they give each and every day. We are bullish about 2019 sales potential, because we have a great business operated by exceptional AutoZoners.

Now, I'll turn the call over to Bill Giles.

William T. Giles -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Bill, and good morning, everyone. To start this morning, let me take a few moments to talk more specifically about our retail, commercial, and international results for the quarter. For the quarter, total auto parts sales, which includes our domestic retail and commercial business, and our Mexico and Brazil stores, increased 3%. For the trailing 52 weeks ended, total sales per AutoZone store were $1,778,000. For the quarter, total commercial sales increased 8.8%. In the fourth quarter, commercial represented 21% of our total sales, versus 20% last year, and grew $59 million over last year's fourth quarter.

This past quarter, we opened 58 net new programs versus 99 new programs opened in our fourth quarter of last fiscal year. We now have a commercial program in 4,741 stores, or 84% of our domestic stores, supported by 198 hub stores. In 2019, we expect to open again approximately 150 new programs. As Bill mentioned a moment ago, we remain focused on growing this business. We are committed to having a great sales team supplemented with a stronger engagement of our store managers and district managers. We remain confident in the initiatives we have and will have in place, and we expect we will continue to gain market share in this sector.

Our Mexico stores continued to perform well on a local currency basis. We opened 28 new stores during the fourth quarter. At the end of the quarter, we had 564 stores in Mexico. We again expect to open approximately 40 new stores in Fiscal 2019. While the exchange rate worked against us this past quarter, the Mexico leadership team continues to do a fine job managing the base peso denominated business.

Regarding Brazil, we opened four new stores and currently are operating 20 stores. Our plans are to grow an additional 19 stores over the next year. While Brazil is run at an operating loss, we are encouraged by the sales per store being generated. We expect Brazil will grow its store base and may even surprise Mexico's store count over time as we prove the operating model produces sufficient returns.

For the quarter, gross profit as a percentage of sales was 53.6% versus 52.8% the same period last year. The increase gross margin was attributable to the impact of the sale of two business units completed during the year and higher merchandise margins, partially offset by higher supply chain cost. Our supply chain expense deleverage was mainly due to diesel fuel costs being higher. However, there was some deleverage from the opening of the new DC in Ocala, Florida. We continue to feel we can manage these expense categories throughout Fiscal 2019. Our primary focus remains growing absolute gross profit dollars in our total auto parts segment.

Operating expenses as a percentage of sales, were 37% versus 32.6% same period last year. The increase was primarily due to the pension settlement charge of $130.3 million and domestic store payroll. While incurred significant charges related to the termination of the pension plans int he quarter, we are pleased to have terminated our qualified and nonqualified pension plans, eliminated any future expense related to those plans, and most importantly eliminated all risk associated with the plan's asset performance. Our team worked at this very hard and did a terrific job on this endeavor.

While our reported EBIT for Q4 was $591 million, our adjusted EBIT, calculated by removing the charges related to the termination of the pension plans, for the quarter was $722 million, up 2% over last year's fourth quarter. Our adjusted EBIT margin was 20.3%. Interest expense for the quarter was $54.3 million, compared with $51.4 million in Q4 a year ago. The higher expense is due to higher rates we're seeing on our variable rate debt.

Debt outstanding at the end of the quarter was $5 billion, or approximately $75 million less than last year's balance. Our adjusted debt level metric finished the quarter at 2.5 times the EBITDAR. While in any given quarter, we may increase or decrease our leverage metric, based on management's opinion regarding debt and equity market conditions, we remain committed to both our investment grade rating and our capital allocation strategy, and share repurchases are an important element of that strategy.

For the quarter, our tax rate was 25.4% versus last year's Q4 of 33.9%. As Bill said earlier on the call, we expect a tax rate of approximately 24.5% in 2019. Net income for the quarter decreased 7.7% over the same period last year to $400 million, while diluted earnings per share decreased 1.6% to $15.02 per share from $15.27 per share in the year-ago quarter. As previously disclosed, during the quarter we terminated our qualified and nonqualified pension plans that had been frozen since Fiscal 2003. Adjusted for the charges related to the termination of the pension plans of $93.7 million net of tax, adjusted net income for the quarter increased 13.8% over the same period last year to $494 million, while adjusted diluted earnings per share increased 21.4% to $18.54 per share from $15.27 per share in the year-ago quarter. Our diluted share count of $26.6 million was down 6.2% from last year's fourth quarter.

Relating to the cash flow statement for the fourth quarter, we generated $8243 million of operating cash flow. Net fixed assets were up 4.6% versus last year. Capital expenditures for the quarter totaled $195 million and reflected the additional expenditures required to open 114 new locations this quarter. Capital expenditures on existing stores, hub and mega hub store remodels or openings, work on the development of new stores for upcoming quarters, and information technology investments. With the new stores opened we finished this past quarter with 5,618 stores in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; 564 stores in Mexico; and 20 in Brazil, for a total AutoZone store count of 6,202.

Depreciation totaled $108 million for the quarter versus last year's fourth quarter expense of $103.1 million. This is generally in line with recent quarter growth rates. We repurchased $665 million of AutoZone stock in the fourth quarter. At quarter end, we had $232 million remaining under our share buyback authorization and our leverage metric was 2.5 times. Again, I want to stress we managed to appropriate credit ratings and not any one metric. The metric we report is meant as a guide only, as each rating firm has its own criteria. We continue to view our share repurchase program as an attractive capital deployment strategy.

Next, I'd like to update you on our inventory levels in total and on a per store basis. The Company's inventory increased 1.6% over the same period last year, driven primarily by new store openings. Inventory per location was $636,000 versus $644,000 last year, and $658,000 last quarter. Net inventory, defined as merchandise inventories less accounts payable on a per location basis, was a negative $75,000 versus a negative $48,000 last year and a negative $48,000 just last quarter.

As a result, accounts payable as a percent of gross inventory, finished the quarter at 111.8%. One item I would like to call out is that last year's first quarter experienced several natural disasters that impacted our sales and operating profit results. We called out 50-60 basis points of comp tailwinds we received from the storms, and $9 million of cost in the last year's first quarter.

Finally, as Bill previously mentioned, our continued disciplined capital management approach resulted in return on invested capital for the trailing four quarters of 32.1%. We have, and will continue to make, investments that we believe will generate returns that significantly exceed our cost of capital.

Now, I'll turn it back to Bill Rhodes.

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Bill. Before I conclude, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on Fiscal 2018. The year certainly was an improvement from 2017, but it also didn't completely meet our expectations. However, our team continued to deliver some very impressive accomplishments and milestones. In recognition of the dedication, passion, innovation, and commitment of our AutoZoners, I want to highlight that first, our sales grew to a record $11.2 billion this past year. We grew same-store sales at 1.8%.

We opened 150 domestic new stores and now have over 5,600 locations across the United States. We opened 40 stores in Mexico, a tremendous accomplishment by that talented team. We are starting to ramp up our Brazilian operations as we expanded to 20 stores in and around Sao Paulo. Our supply chain, after some significant changes, is only getting stronger and is poised to leverage those improvements. Between the distribution centers and the hub/mega hub locations, we're beginning to see real sales traction by being able to say yes more than ever before.

We expanded our highly successful mega hub strategy, opening eight new mega hubs this year, ending with 24. Our team has done a wonderful job of introducing new out-of-the-box ideas like our market leading next day delivery option up to 10:00 PM. Most importantly, our customers are visiting our website at accelerated rates and using that research to inform their in-store visits. Lastly, we sold two business in AutoAnything and IMC to focus our resources on our core business. While we will continue to challenge ourselves, our decisions, processes, and strategies, we will always invest to reinforce our guiding principles, leveraging our methodologies of evolution over revolution and superior execution with consistent strategy is a formula for success.

We have an exceptional team that executes extremely well. Our focus remains on being successful over the long run. That success will be attributable to our approach to leveraging our unique and powerful culture, and focusing on the needs of our customers. To execute at a high level, we must consistently adhere to living the pledge. We cannot and will not take our eye off of execution. But we must continually challenge ourselves to think differently and move more swiftly once conclusions are reached. Success will be achieved with an attention to detail and exceptional execution.

Our customers have choices and we must exceed their expectations in whatever way they choose to shop with us. We are fortunate to operate in one of the strongest retail segments and we continue to be excited about our industry's growth prospects for 2019 and beyond. Our charge remains to optimize our performance regardless of market conditions and continue to ensure we are investing in the key initiatives that will drive our long-term performance. In the end, delivering strong EPS growth and ROIC each quarter is how we measure ourselves. This formula has been extremely successful over the last 39 years, and we continue to be excited about our future.

...

Now, we'd like to open up the call for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. We will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Our first question is from Matt Fassler from Goldman Sachs. One moment, please.

Matthew J. Fassler -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

[Audio muted] will have disruptions at any point in time, puts and takes in any given quarter. But, can you frame the magnitude of what you were trying to get done in this past fiscal year, particularly the second half? You spoke about the vendor changeover, etc. Just to get a sense as to whether the ask you made on yourselves was that much greater than it had been in prior quarters.

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Matt, you didn't come through at the first, but I think I understand it. If I didn't get it, or don't address it, please clarify for me. I think you have to look at two different things. First and foremost, we made a strategic decision on discontinuing the e-commerce promotions. That didn't have anything to do with execution or transitions. That was a strategic decision we made and that cost us about 40 basis points of comp. We want to make that clear. We turned them back on and we'll see where we go from here. We did not want to be in a competitive disadvantage position.

On the transitions, in hindsight I think we would look back on it and say that we took on a disproportionate amount, and too much, in the second half of the year. We always have vendor transitions going on and we always have distribution changes going on and hub stores and mega hubs opening. We just had a little too much. Frankly, several of these didn't go as planned and they were challenging during the implementation. As we get finished with the implementation, we are very excited that we'll be in a better competitive position. And, in most cases, we already are. But, it hurt us a little bit in that six-month period of time.

Matthew J. Fassler -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

Thanks. Relating to the next day delivery effort, can you talk about how you're going to fulfill these orders? What is it about what you're doing that would suggest that next day delivery should be proprietary either to you or to your channel, and perhaps tougher for pure play e-commerce firms to execute, if you think that that's the case?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

I think I'll have to let you answer the latter portion of that. I will tell you that we have a world class logistics organization that we are working with, that we've been working with on this for some time, and we are really excited to be in the position to have this differentiated offering out there. How long will it be differentiated? I think that's yet to be determined. Certainly, we don't know. But, we're taking advantage of it. I'm amazed at our organization. From the time we had our first conversation about doing this, we were up and running in a store in six months. That is remarkable, and a great sign of the innovation that our team can drive. Now, here we are a year later than that, and we have it in 83 markets and 80% of the United States population can order as late as 10:00 PM and get a product on their doorstep tomorrow.

It just shows, Matt, that innovation doesn't only rest on the West Coast. There are a lot of people that are doing a lot of different innovations and leveraging technologies to improve customer service.

Matthew J. Fassler -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Operator

Our next question is from Michael Lasser from UBS. Your line is now open.

Michael Lasser -- UBS Group -- Analyst

Good morning. Thanks for taking my question. At the risk of asking an obvious question, you mentioned that you're bullish on your sales in the industry environment in the upcoming year. Does that mean it's reasonable to expect that you'll see an acceleration in both your DIY and your DIFM same store sales results in the upcoming year?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

As you know, Michael, we don't give guidance, so we're going to leave that to you guys, the experts. We're trying to tell you what we think is going on in the industry. Bill was very clear that in the first quarter we have something that we have to lap that's pretty significant, and that was the hurricanes last year. Unfortunately, we got a large part of the Carolinas that are going through that issue right now as well, and we certainly are sympathetic toward all the people who are dealing with that. I congratulate our team out there for doing a remarkable job taking care of our business and our customers, more important. But, as far as whether or not we're going to go up or down from here, I think there are a lot of moving pieces and we're not in the projection business.

Michael Lasser -- UBS Group -- Analyst

With that being said, what do you anticipate inflation is going to contribute to the industry for the upcoming year, both from an underlying raw material and cost of doing business going up and then the potential for tariffs as well.

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Tell me what the tariffs are going to be. Are they going to be 10% or 25%? If they're 25%, or if they stay for a long period of time, that's going to drive some significant inflation in our industry. I will tell you, over long periods of time, marginal inflation in our business is good. By the way, we're seeing inflation at accelerated rates in wages. So, we're not scared of marginal inflation. What we don't want to see are shocks that shock the consumer.

Michael Lasser -- UBS Group -- Analyst

Are you seeing inflation pick up as it stands today?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Not materially. The categories that were impacted back in July with the tariffs, certainly those categories have seen inflation. On a broader level, we're not seeing it. But, you are seeing it in various parts of the economy. So, fuel prices are up. Wages are up. We're later in the economic cycle. By the way, things that normally happen later in the economic cycle seem to be showing up.

Michael Lasser -- UBS Group -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you so much and good luck.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Simeon Gutman from Morgan Stanley.

Simeon Gutman -- Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC -- Analyst

Thanks. Good morning. First, for Bill Rhodes, I want to talk about the online promotion and the next day delivery. You made the strategic decision to drop it and then, in the not-so-long-after period it looks like it's back with one of the better shipping or next day delivery programs in the industry. Can you talk about what caused that abruptness? Was it either the mass -- more tolerable? Or is there something you're anticipating in the industry?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

I think it's we've been out there for five to six months by ourselves. It's not lost on our us that our competitive sales position -- that we're not growing share at the robust rate that we were for about 8-10 months before that decline, and we want to make sure and prove to ourselves -- if it was only the 40 basis points of what was happening with online promotions, I don't think we would've changed it. But, we've got to make sure that it's not changing the value perception of our consumer as they're beginning the shopping experience. The vast majority of our customers begin their shopping journey -- whether they buy in-store or online -- online. So, if that was changing the value perception, we've got to make sure that that's not the case.

Simeon Gutman -- Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC -- Analyst

Alright. And now your offer, in theory, leapfrogs what's out there in the marketplace. Is that fair? Were you expecting this at some point from your competitors anyway, so you just might as well get there?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

I think we have a very differentiated offering right now -- very different.

Simeon Gutman -- Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC -- Analyst

Fair enough. For Bill Giles, to the extent we can talk about it, on a 52-week basis -- because you have the extra week -- can we talk about just EBIT dollar growth? Are you planning for that for next year? I think you reiterated some of the comments around expense growing, but I just want to talk about EBIT dollars in totality.

William T. Giles -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I'll just come back to the SG&A growth. I think we had articulated that a couple of quarters ago, and it seems as though the Street has digested that in the numbers that that they've got out there today. So, no change from that perspective. I think you guys have to figure out what you believe comp is going to be, etc., and go from there. But, we do expect to make some of those investments. Some of those are going to be in wage rates and some investment in technology, and that will ramp during the year. A big chunk of that was the wage rates, and that'll come in play toward the middle to end of Q1, and then in full force in Q2. So, think about it that way as you're ramping your SG&A.

Simeon Gutman -- Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks for that. Good luck next year.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Kate McShane from Citi. Your line is now open.

Kate McShane -- Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. -- Analyst

I think it was mentioned in the comments about the composition of comp growth. Could you maybe differentiate how DIY versus DIFM did during the quarter? How much was from new customer acquisition or a bigger basket or both?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

In the call, we said both retail and commercial were positive every month throughout the quarter. We gave clarity that commercial grew at 8.8% and we got that growth from new customers as well as existing customers, and that that's accelerated from 7.3% last quarter. We're quite pleased. The productivity on a per program basis was the highest we've see in some time -- the growth in productivity.

Kate McShane -- Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you. Just to nail down the vendor transition piece, can you tell us what the timing was in regard to when it started to get a little bit more aggressive with the transition and when that will end?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. First of all, it's not one single event. There were six or seven of these kinds of events and they all happened at different times. But, they really culminated over the course of the fourth quarter. Had a little bit of impact in the third quarter; most of the impact in the fourth quarter. We still have a little bit going on now, as we're finishing some of those transitions. But, for the most part, that's behind us.

Kate McShane -- Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question is from Mike Baker from Deutsche Bank. Your line is now open.

Mike Baker -- Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Thanks. The online promotions that you did away with, did that positively impact your gross margins, and so now, as you put those back into place, should we expect less gross margin gains ahead?

William T. Giles -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Mike, they definitely favorably impacted them slightly. But, keep in mind, these are relatively low volume in general, so not enough to really move the needle, per se.

Mike Baker -- Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. The vendor transition -- thank you for quantifying the impact of the online change to your comps. Could you quantify the impact of the vendor transitions?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, we really can't. It's happening in different categories, different weeks -- it's just very, very difficult. We think it certainly had a negative impact on us in the quarter. We also think it's pretty much behind us at this point in time. But, calling out a specific -- it's very easy on the online promotions. We can put facts behind that one. This one is more difficult.

Mike Baker -- Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. To put these questions together, presumably they were somewhere in the 50-70 basis point impact when you consider what you quantified for online plus the vendor issue. That seems to then offset the hurricanes? Is that a fair way to think about it, that you have some positives coming because those disruptions and changes are behind you, offsetting the tougher comparison from last year's hurricanes?

William T. Giles -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I have no idea if they're going to perfectly offset, but you're absolutely right. We have some things in the quarter that we believe that we're going to execute better on going forward. We've made a change in the promotional activity online and we think that'll be a benefit. Obviously, we have some headwinds from Q1 last year and then TBD on what the impacts of the current year hurricanes will be.

Mike Baker -- Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Understood. Alright. Thank you for the color. Appreciate it.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Christopher Horvers from JP Morgan. Your line is now open.

Christopher Horvers -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- Analyst

Thanks. First, on the gross margin outlook going forward, you've had some very nice sourcing benefits over the past quarters. It looks like the supply chain and the fuel aspect turned negative in this quarter, and that offset that. But, at the same time, the benefit from the divested businesses accelerated. Could you piece those apart? How do you think about that 70 basis points going forward on the divested businesses? How do you balance out -- is the sourcing benefit still going to outweigh the fuel supply chain headwind? How should we think about that?

William T. Giles -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

I think basically you're right. We had about a 70 basis point impact this quarter. I think it was about 40 basis points last quarter with just kind of a transition in third quarter. We had 40 basis points. When you go forward on Q1 and Q2, you'll probably have something similar to what you had in Q4, maybe a little bit less, but you're right. We did have some headwinds on supply chain, specifically diesel fuel. So, I suspect that that will continue to be a headwind for the next quarter or so. We continue to make benefits from sourcing. The merchandising organization continues to do a good job of lowering acquisitions costs, etc. But, I think that'll probably be a little muted versus what it had been, particularly given some of the tariffs that might be coming in play, etc.

That's how I'd think about it going forward. I think you have 70 basis points or so of benefit by not having the two business units and then some headwind from the supply chain.

Christopher Horvers -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- Analyst

Got it. In terms of the next day delivery, right now it's free if you spend over a certain amount. How do you think about the cost of that to the consumer going forward, what you're going to charge versus if you had a standard two-day delivery free over 35 or something like that? And then, is this being sourced from stores and hubs or distribution centers? How is it being pushed out to the consumer?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

On the first part, whether or not we'll charge for it -- we don't know the answer to that yet. We have charged for it in the past, a marginal amount. $1.99 and free next day delivery. Right now, it's on there at zero. Right now, we have promotions out there on certain amounts. We are going to work on modifying those over time to find the right sweet spot for our customer and for our business. As to where it's being sourced, it's from the local markets. That's the only way that you can get it there for the next day. It's coming out of those hubs and mega hubs, which is a great opportunity for us to activate that inventory even better.

If you think about it, three or four years ago we didn't have any mega hubs. Today, we have 24 and we're talking about adding 10 more next year. It puts us in a very different competitive position going forward.

Christopher Horvers -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- Analyst

Understood. Best of luck.

Operator

Our next question is from Seth Sigman from Credit Suisse. Your line is now open.

Seth Sigman -- Credit Suisse Group -- Analyst

Around market share, you guys talked about market share gains subsiding in the second half of the year. Was that more about specific challenges that AutoZone was grappling with or did you actually see something different from some of your competitors? And then, around the improvement in August, as you started to address some of the issues you had earlier in the quarter, did you actually start to see market share gains reverse and start to accelerate again?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

For the latter part of that question, we have not seen August market share data completely yet, although I wouldn't expect to see it in August. I think we're really improving -- one of the questions we got earlier was did your market share change from May to June and July? The answer is no. I want to make this real clear. We continued to gain market share all throughout this. But, we had more robust market share gains for 8-10 months before the February time period. What happened in February? We changed our cadence in online promotions. That clearly impacted us 40 basis points. Did this customer value perception change and did that slow us down too? Maybe -- maybe not. That's what we're testing to learn today.

And then, that's also when we started hitting these vendor transitions. Our competitors are always great competitors. Whether they improve themselves or not, I don't know the answer to that. But, I know that we weren't at our finest during that period of time. I know we're in the process of correcting that.

Seth Sigman -- Credit Suisse Group -- Analyst

Bill, are we talking mostly about the DIY business? The commercial business has continued to perform pretty well.

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

No, I think the underlying trends in the commercial better are better. The vast majority of the vendor transitions would have impacted commercial just as much as they impacted DIY, if not more, because it's more of a hard parts business and several of these were major hard part changeovers, which are very complex and very challenging. They just didn't go flawlessly.

Seth Sigman -- Credit Suisse Group -- Analyst

On the commercial business specifically, I think there was a period last year where you were using a third party to help assess the strategy and there was a little bit of uncertainty at that point. Obviously, since then, the business has continued to improve. Can you discuss the changes that have been made that you think are helping drive that improvement? And then, as you think about 2019, I think you've talked about getting to double-digit growth for the commercial business at some point. What will it take to get there?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I wish I knew the answer to the last question. We'd do it tomorrow if we knew what it would take. Yes, we did a commercial study, a strategic review of our commercial business, and we concluded it about a year ago. It came with some new concepts and we're trying some of those new concepts. We don't know if they're going to work yet or not. They're very complicated and we're doing great things and I'm proud of our team. But, that's not what's driving our business today. What's driving our business today is our inventory assortment changes that we've made over the last three years with hubs and mega hubs and improved assortments in the satellite stores.

We've also got our store management teams -- both the district managers and the store managers -- much more involved in the commercial business so that they're not thinking about DIY first and commercial second. They're coming to work every day thinking, "I'm the store manager of both the retail and the commercial business. I think those things are just the blocking and tackling of what's making the improvements in our commercial business today. I certainly hope to return to 10%. I'm very encouraged by going from 7.3% to 8.8%. I'm also encouraged by some of the strategic changes that we're looking at. But, it's way too early for us to talk about any of those.

Seth Sigman -- Credit Suisse Group -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks, Bill.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Seth Basham from Wedbush Securities.

Seth Basham -- Wedbush Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Good morning. Around inflation, did you try to quantify what the impact on your comps were this quarter from inflation?

William T. Giles -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

We didn't necessarily quantify the impact from inflation. We think inflation -- there's a little bit of inflation in certain categories, but it hasn't been significant. Obviously, marginal inflation is helpful for the industry and for us specifically, but we've seen moderate inflation.

Seth Basham -- Wedbush Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Moderate inflation. Okay. If we assume that the tariffs that are proposed go through later this month, would you expect that the inflation environment will still be moderate and management or do you anticipate some transitional headwinds?

William T. Giles -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Well, we think it's manageable. One of the things in this industry is that we're a very slow churn inventory business. So, whatever tariffs do arrive, we'll have an opportunity to see what the impact is going to be on each of the categories, etc. Historically, the industry has been very successful in being able to pass those costs on to consumers. So, that's how we see it playing out.

Seth Basham -- Wedbush Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Thanks. Around the overnight delivery offer you have now, initially when you put this out you were leveraging FedEx to deliver these packages overnight. Are you no longer using FedEx for this purpose?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

I think you can see that we are using a word class logistic operator in FedEx, if you look at our website. They've done a wonderful job of helping us innovate on this frontend.

Seth Basham -- Wedbush Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you, guys.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is from Matt McClintock from Barclays. Your line is now open.

Matthew J. McClintock -- Barclays Capital -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning. On the tariffs, or broader inflation, can you help me understand the elasticity of price increases for the DIY side versus the commercial side, how to think through that? I would assume DIY would be more impacted from a volume perspective, but I'd love to get your perspective. Thanks.

William T. Giles -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Historically, we haven't seen that necessarily. The elasticity is not as great as you might imagine on many of the parts. Also, consider that a big chunk of our business is failure related parts. So, those are required parts to operate your vehicle. But, historically, when you look back over time, the elasticity, even on the maintenance side and to some extent discretionary, is not as great as you would think.

Matthew J. McClintock -- Barclays Capital -- Analyst

Thank you. That's helpful. On the overnight delivery, is this the missing piece to being able to have a real inflection and broader consumer acceptance of purchasing these products online?

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

I don't think there are any silver bullets out there. I think this is a normal part of the evolution of leveraging new technologies and new innovations. This is a very small part of our business and we anticipate it remaining relatively small. It's growing fast right now and we're going to accelerate it as best we can. But, at the end of the day, we believe the omnichannel experience is the most important. We believe coming into our stores and engaging with our incredibly knowledgeable AutoZoners, and having them help our DIY customers figure out how to maintain or repair their vehicles, is the most important part. This is just another avenue for us to meet those customers where, when, and how it's most convenient for them. So, I wouldn't overdo it, but it is a great new innovation.

Matthew J. McClintock -- Barclays Capital -- Analyst

Thank you very much. Best of luck.

Operator

Thank you. I will now hand the call back to Mr. Bill Rhodes.

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

Alright. Thank you. Before we conclude the call, I'd like to take a moment to reiterate that our business model continues to be solid. We're excited about our growth prospects for the year. We will not take anything for granted, as we understand our customers have alternatives. We have a solid plan to succeed this fiscal year, but I want to stress that this is a marathon and not a sprint. As we continue to focus on the basics and focus on optimizing long-term shareholder value, we are confident AutoZone will continue to be very, very successful. We thank you for participating in today's call. Have a great day.

...

Operator

Thank you. And that concludes today's conference. Thank you all for participating. You may now disconnect.

Duration: 62 minutes

Call participants:

William C. Rhodes III -- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer

William T. Giles -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Brian Campbell -- Vice President, Treasurer, Investor Relations and Tax

Michael Lasser -- UBS Group -- Analyst

Matthew J. Fassler -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

Christopher Horvers -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- Analyst

Simeon Gutman -- Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC -- Analyst

Seth Basham -- Wedbush Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Seth Sigman -- Credit Suisse Group -- Analyst

Kate McShane -- Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. -- Analyst

Matthew J. McClintock -- Barclays Capital -- Analyst

Mike Baker -- Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

More AZO analysis

This article is a transcript of this conference call produced for The Motley Fool. While we strive for our Foolish Best, there may be errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in this transcript. As with all our articles, The Motley Fool does not assume any responsibility for your use of this content, and we strongly encourage you to do your own research, including listening to the call yourself and reading the company's SEC filings. Please see our Terms and Conditions for additional details, including our Obligatory Capitalized Disclaimers of Liability.

10 stocks we like better than AutoZoneWhen investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has quadrupled the market.*

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the 10 best stocks for investors to buy right now... and AutoZone wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

Click here to learn about these picks!

*Stock Advisor returns as of August 6, 2018

Motley Fool Transcription has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.