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AutoZone 1st Quarter Same Store Sales Increase 9.5%; EPS Increases 33.7% to $3.77

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Dec. 7, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- AutoZone, Inc. (NYSE:AZO) today reported net sales of $1.8 billion for its first quarter (12 weeks) ended November 20, 2010, an increase of 12.7% from the first quarter of fiscal 2010 (12 weeks). Domestic same store sales, or sales for stores open at least one year, increased 9.5% for the quarter.
/ Source: GlobeNewswire

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Dec. 7, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- AutoZone, Inc. (NYSE:AZO) today reported net sales of $1.8 billion for its first quarter (12 weeks) ended November 20, 2010, an increase of 12.7% from the first quarter of fiscal 2010 (12 weeks). Domestic same store sales, or sales for stores open at least one year, increased 9.5% for the quarter.

Net income for the quarter increased $28.8 million, or 20.1%, over the same period last year to $172.1 million, while diluted earnings per share increased 33.7% to $3.77 per share from $2.82 per share in the year-ago quarter.

For the quarter, gross profit, as a percentage of sales, was 50.7% (versus 50.3% for last year's quarter). The improvement in gross margin was primarily attributable to increased penetration of Duralast product offerings and lower product acquisition costs. Operating expenses, as a percentage of sales, were 33.6% (versus 33.9% last year).  The reduction in operating expenses, as a percentage of sales, reflected leverage of store operating expenses due to higher sales, partially offset by increased incentive compensation costs (35 basis points), higher legal expenses (27 bps), and continued investments in our hub store initiative (18 basis points).

Under its share repurchase program, AutoZone repurchased 1.3 million shares of its common stock for $300 million during the first quarter, at an average price of $231 per share. At quarter end, the Company had $386 million remaining under its current share repurchase authorization.

The Company's inventory increased 4.4% over the same period last year, driven by new store openings. Inventory per store was $508 thousand consistent with last year.  

"We are pleased to announce another quarter of strong performance.  This marks the eighth consecutive quarter of 20% plus growth in earnings per share and our seventeenth consecutive quarter of double digit growth.  While the macro environment for our industry remains favorable, our results are a direct result of the strong commitment to excellence of our 60,000+ AutoZoners across North America.  Their commitment to our culture and to our customers is our key point of differentiation.  Additionally, our return on invested capital on a trailing four-quarter basis reached another new all-time high at 28.6%.  We remain committed to our disciplined approach of growing operating earnings while utilizing our capital appropriately," said Bill Rhodes, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. 

During the quarter ended November 20, 2010, AutoZone opened 15 new stores and replaced four stores in the U.S. and opened 3 new stores in Mexico. As of November 20, 2010, the Company had 4,404 stores in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in the U.S. and 241 stores in Mexico.

AutoZone is the leading retailer and a leading distributor of automotive replacement parts and accessories in the United States. 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. Many stores also have 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. AutoZone also sells the ALLDATA brand diagnostic and repair software. On the web, AutoZone sells diagnostic and repair information, and auto and light truck parts through , and as part of our commercial sales program, through . AutoZone does not derive revenue from automotive repair or installation.

AutoZone will host a conference call this morning, Tuesday, December 7, 2010, beginning at 10:00 a.m. (EST) to discuss its first quarter results. Investors may listen to the conference call live and review supporting slides on the AutoZone corporate website, by clicking "Investor Relations," "Conference Calls." The call will also be available by dialing (210) 839-8923. A replay of the call and slides will be available on AutoZone's website. In addition, a replay of the call will be available by dialing (203) 369-1211 through Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

This release includes certain financial information not derived in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"). These non-GAAP measures include return on invested capital, adjusted debt, and adjusted debt/EBITDAR. The Company believes that the presentation of these non-GAAP measures provides information that is useful to investors as it indicates more clearly the Company's comparative year-to-year operating results, but this information should not be considered a substitute for any measures derived in accordance with GAAP. Management targets the Company's capital structure in order to maintain its investment grade credit ratings and manages cash flows available for share repurchase by monitoring cash flows before share repurchases, as shown on the attached tables. The Company believes this is important information for the management of its debt levels and share repurchases. We have included a reconciliation of this additional information to the most comparable GAAP measures in the accompanying reconciliation tables.

Certain statements contained in this press release are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements typically use words such as "believe," "anticipate," "should," "intend," "plan," "will," "expect," "estimate," "project," "positioned," "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: credit market conditions; the impact of recessionary conditions; competition; product demand; the ability to hire and retain qualified employees; consumer debt levels; inflation; weather; raw material costs of our suppliers; energy prices; war and the prospect of war, including terrorist activity; construction delays; access to available and feasible financing; and changes in laws or regulations. Certain of these risks are discussed in more detail in the "Risk Factors" section contained in Item 1A under Part 1 of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended August 28, 2010, 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. 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.

CONTACT: AutoZone, Inc. Financial: Brian Campbell (901) 495-7005 brian.campbell@autozone.com Media: Ray Pohlman (866) 966-3017 ray.pohlman@autozone.com