B2B eCommerce

The world’s biggest MRO distributor posts healthy Q3 digital sales

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The biggest public distributor of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) supplies reported decidedly bigger third quarter digital commerce sales, especially in the U.S. market.

Zoro is the U.S.-based unit of  W. W. Grainger’s online-only Endless Assortment segment, which compared to the flagship ecommerce site Grainger.com caters to “smaller customers with less complex operations” and also includes Japan-based MonotaRo.com.

Zoro’s sales shot up 27.4% to $276 million in the third quarter, up from $217 million a year earlier.  Helping to drive that growth were continued increases in the number of Zoro’s registered customers, to more than 4.4 million, and its number of available SKUs, to 10.3 million, Grainger said.

Grainger did not break out the company’s total Q3 ecommerce sales. It usually refers to digital commerce in its annual reports. In 2021, it said 75% of orders originated through a digital channel, including websites, internet vending machines, e-procurement software and EDI.

Grainger’s North American High-Touch Solutions sales, which include full-service sales through the company’s U.S. flagship Grainger.com, Canada-based Grainger.ca, and its sales agents, increased 19.4% in Q3 to $3.180 billion.

“We’re certainly happy with the quarter, probably happier with our longer-term ability to continuously gain market share, and in a profitable way,” DG Macpherson, chairman and CEO, said on an earnings call today.

Macpherson added that Grainger is experiencing improvements in its supply chain operations, with products flowing much more smoothly from Asia than a year ago.

The company’s ability to maintain inventory levels has coincided with Grainger’s increased sales of “technical products,” including items used in manufacturing assembly lines, which extend beyond Grainger’s core market of MRO products that companies use to maintain their facilities.

Dee Merriwether, senior vice president and chief financial officer, said the increase in technical products sales stemmed from “our remerchandising efforts … making sure those products are much easier for our customers to find and are helping them solve their business problems.”

For the third quarter ended Sept. 30, Grainger reported:

  • Sales through Zoro.com increased 27.4% to $217 million, as Zoro’s number of registered users increased 4.1% to 4.41 million and the number of SKUs increased 29% to 10.3 million.
  • Total Endless Assortment segment sales, comprised of Zoro.com and Japan-based MonoraRo.com, increased 8.6% to $701 million, as the total number of registered users increased 4.1% to 12,024.
  • Total net sales increased 16.9% to $3.94 billion.
  • Net earnings increased 43.4% to $426 million.

For the nine months ended Sept. 30, Grainger reported:

  • Total net sales increased 18.2% to $11.43 billion.
  • Net earnings increased 49.6% to $1.22 billion.

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