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AutoZone 3rd Quarter Same Store Sales Increase 5.3%; EPS Increases 28.5% to $5.29

MEMPHIS, Tenn., May 24, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- AutoZone, Inc. (NYSE:AZO) today reported net sales of $2.0 billion for its third quarter (12 weeks) ended May 7, 2011, an increase of 8.6% from the third quarter of fiscal 2010 (12 weeks). Domestic same store sales, or sales for stores open at least one year, increased 5.3% for the quarter.
/ Source: GlobeNewswire

MEMPHIS, Tenn., May 24, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- AutoZone, Inc. (NYSE:AZO) today reported net sales of $2.0 billion for its third quarter (12 weeks) ended May 7, 2011, an increase of 8.6% from the third quarter of fiscal 2010 (12 weeks). Domestic same store sales, or sales for stores open at least one year, increased 5.3% for the quarter.

Net income for the quarter increased $24.6 million, or 12.1%, over the same period last year to $227.4 million, while diluted earnings increased 28.5% to $5.29 per share from $4.12 per share in the year-ago quarter.

For the quarter, gross profit, as a percentage of sales, was 51.2% (versus 50.7% for last year's quarter). The improvement in gross margin was attributable to lower shrink expense (35 bps) and higher merchandise margins (23 bps). The increased merchandise margins continued to benefit this quarter from increased penetration of Duralast product sales. Operating expenses, as a percentage of sales, were 31.4% (versus 31.1% last year). The increase in operating expenses, as a percentage of sales, was primarily the result of increased investments in our hub store initiative (18 bps) and higher fuel costs related to delivering products to Commercial customers (8 bps).

Under its share repurchase program, AutoZone repurchased 1.3 million shares of its common stock for $339 million during the third quarter, at an average price of $267 per share. At quarter end, the Company had $152 million remaining under its current share repurchase authorization.

The Company's inventory increased 8.9% over the same period last year, driven by an increase in store count and continued strategic investments in hard parts assortment. Inventory per store was $527 thousand versus $506 thousand last year, an increase of 4.1%.

"We are very pleased to announce another quarter of strong performance. This marks the tenth consecutive quarter of 20% plus growth in earnings per share and our nineteenth consecutive quarter of double digit growth. Our results are the direct reflection of the dedication and commitment of our 60,000+ AutoZoners, who strive everyday to meet or exceed the needs of our customers. Additionally, our consistent, disciplined approach to enhancing our offerings through our ongoing initiatives is resonating with our customers, resulting in continued growth in market share. This quarter we achieved two significant milestones. We exceeded $1 billion in sales in our Commercial business on a trailing four quarter basis and we set another new all-time record for return on invested capital at 30.2%. We remain committed to our disciplined approach of growing operating earnings while efficiently utilizing our capital," said Bill Rhodes, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.

During the quarter ended May 7, 2011, AutoZone opened 43 new stores, closed one store, replaced one store in the U.S. and opened 12 new stores in Mexico. As of May 7, 2011, the Company had 4,467 stores in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in the U.S. and 261 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 through www.alldata.com and www.alldatadiy.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. AutoZone does not derive revenue from automotive repair or installation.

AutoZone will host a conference call this morning, Tuesday, May 24, 2011, beginning at 10:00 a.m. (EDT) to discuss its third 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, May 31, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. (EDT).

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, adjusted debt to EBITDAR, and cash flow before share repurchases. 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: Financial: Brian Campbell (901) 495-7005 brian.campbell@autozone.com Media: Ray Pohlman (866) 966-3017 ray.pohlman@autozone.com