President and Chief Executive Officer at Tractor Supply
Thank you, Mary Winn, and thank you to everyone for joining us this morning. The Tractor Supply team delivered strong results for the third quarter with net sales of 15.8%, comparable store sales increase of 13.1% and diluted earnings per share of 20.4%. The team is doing an outstanding job navigating a very dynamic and challenging operating environment. We continue to benefit from many market trends that we see is very structurally sound. We have strengthened our customer base. We're gaining market share across our categories. We continue to advance our Life Out Here Strategy. Our business has never been stronger, and we see tremendous opportunities for growth ahead of us.
As we've consistently shared with you over the last 18 months, our strong results are a testament to our 45,000 plus team members and I'd like to thank them for all their efforts in the quarter. They kept each other safe as we went through another COVID-19 wave, they navigated through broad based supply chain disruptions and cost of goods increases, and navigated and managed through a tight labor market. Through it all, they've been resilient and persevered to deliver strong customer satisfaction scores including all-time high [Indecipherable] scores. Our team members are our greatest strategic asset and a key competitive differentiator with our customers. Our loyal and highly engaged team members have helped us fare better than most as far as staffing across our stores and DCs. Back in June, we raised our minimum opening wage to $11.25 per hour. Our recent wage actions bring our average hourly wage rate at our stores to nearly $15 per hour as we exit the year, with our DCs at a higher rate. The investments we have made in store labor are being recognized by our customers by the overall customer satisfaction scores that I just mentioned.
I'd also like to say thank you to our vendors and supply chain partners as we work together to overcome challenges in the global supply chain network. And together, we've been very focused on controlling what we can control to deliver these results. Across our network we've been nimble and been able to navigate the unprecedented supply chain environment and macro issues including inflationary pressures. And the team has done a great job addressing issues ranging from import container shortages and port delays, driver shortages, higher freight rates and a multitude of other supply chain constraints. To mitigate these challenges, the team has leveraged dedicated containership, top up the fees, expansion of mixing centers and direct to store shipment. Despite these challenges, our inventory's in good shape and our in-stock rates finished above last year at the end of the quarter.
Our diversified vendor base with only about 12% direct import is a strong point of differentiation for us during these supply chain times. Given our scale and sophistication, we believe that our network is a competitive advantage to being the dependable supplier for the Out Here lifestyle. Categories in which we participate and the Out Here lifestyle that we serve, continue to have elevated consumer spending levels well above pre- COVID levels. We fully anticipate this environment we're in is going to continue for the foreseeable future. And consequently, we think that the sales growth that we've seen is structurally sound, given the changes in consumer behavior and the lifestyle investments that are now much more ingrained in the consumer psyche. These structural trends that continue to work in our favor include things like rural revitalization, trip consolidation, omnichannel adoption and a self-reliant lifestyle movement, including DIY trends and investments in hobbies like gardening, backyard poultry and of course pet ownership. For many workers, the return to office has been pushed out until next year. And even then will very likely be in a hybrid environment at most employers. And at this point, our customers will have been ingrained for over two years. As such, we anticipate that their behaviors are much more sustainable and structural.
To provide some color on our results, let me share a few other highlights for the third quarter. Like the second quarter, every week had positive comps. Also like the second quarter, our growth was broad based across regions and product categories. Our e-commerce business continued to experience strong momentum with double-digit sales increases of over 40%. And in just under a year, our mobile app already has more than 2 million downloads and now represents over 10% of our e-commerce sales. We continue to gain share across all categories. This has been a consistent trend for multiple quarters now, and this share gain has been both online and in stores. The share gain has been aided by the increase in our unaided brand awareness, which has improved by 21 percentage points since November of 2019. This improvement combined with positive trend in our overall customer satisfaction, are significant contributor to the share gains we are experiencing.
Also consistent from previous quarters, all customer segments were strong with notable strength in our core Farm & Ranch, which is the largest and most important of our customer base. At the same time, our digital ad campaigns that target millennials are supporting a significant growth we are seeing in this important demographic. We think the relevancy of Tractor Supply to the millennial customers has staying power, given the structural changes in the market and our customer behaviors and we're certainly seeing that consistently quarter after quarter in our data, as our average age of customer trends down. For the year, more customers than ever have shopped at Tractor Supply. These customers are making more trips and are spending more money per trip, and our new customer retention remains very strong.
Our Neighbor's Club loyalty program continues to exceed our expectations, with year-over-year sales growth that these members north of 20%. We exited the quarter with more than 22 million Neighbor's Club members. These members are spending more than about three times the rate of non-members, with Neighbor's Club members now accounting for nearly 70% of our sales. This continues to be a step up from where we've been running prior to the relaunch of the program, and sequential improvement over the second quarter of this year. The number of high-value per customers in the program grew almost 30% for the quarter, and we continued to experience retention rate in excess of 95% for our high-value customers. These strong results demonstrate that the changes to Neighbor's Club continue to gain traction with our customers. Given our robust performance through the third quarter, along with our outlook for the fourth quarter, we are again raising our sales and earning guidance for 2021, and Kurt will share more detail on our improved outlook later in the call. Regarding our pending acquisition of Orscheln Farm and Home, we continue to work cooperatively with the FTC, as they continue to review the proposed transaction. We look forward to the benefits this transaction will offer customers with improved product offering and competitive pricing.
As has been the case over the last 18 months, I'm incredibly proud of the way our entire Tractor Supply team has managed to stay focused on taking care of each other and our customers. Our long-term opportunities remain very exciting. Our goal has been to emerge from the pandemic stronger. Over the course of the last year since rolling out our Life Out Here Strategy, we have gotten stronger through this pandemic. And we believe that we're going to emerge from it even stronger and better positioned as we execute our strategy. And with that, I'll now turn the call over to Kurt.