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O'Reilly Warns Sales Could Flatline as Car-Parts Retailers Slump

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  • Comparable store sales rose 1.8% in quarter, below estimates
  • Company forecasts flat-to-2% growth for fourth-quarter sales
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An O'Reilly Automotive Inc. auto parts store in Louisville, Kentucky.

 Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

A rout of car-parts retailers is persisting as O’Reilly Automotive Inc. warned same-store sales growth could grind to a halt late this year, rekindling concern that competition from e-commerce may be eroding demand at brick and mortar stores.

 

Sales at O’Reilly’s existing stores rose 1.8 percent in the third quarter, falling short of the 2 percent average increase analysts estimated. That growth could slow further in the final three months of the year, when O’Reilly forecasts same-store sales will be flat or up as much as 2 percent.

Auto-parts retailers and repair chains have been pummeled in the stock market this year after several reported profit and sales that missed estimates in the first quarter. At first, companies blamed weak demand on delayed tax refunds and a mild winter that reduced the need for drivers to replace components. As the slowdown stretched into spring, investors speculated competition from Amazon.com Inc. -- which has begun to mount an offensive on the industry -- was eating into earnings results.
 
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“We continued to face a challenging demand environment and experienced severe weather in various parts of the country,” Chief Executive Officer Greg Henslee said in a statement.

Demand in the fourth quarter will be hit by “expected continuation of the business trends we experienced in the first nine months of this year,” plus calendar headwinds like the day of the week when Christmas falls, he said. Longer term, “demand drivers for our industry remain intact and positive, including increasing annual miles driven and a growing and aging vehicle fleet,” Henslee said.

O’Reilly shares fell 6.8 percent to $188.94 at 4:36 p.m. in New York after the end of regular trading. They’ve tumbled 27 percent this year through Wednesday’s close, wiping out more than $8 billion of market capitalization.

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