Grainger is no stranger to those in need of a wide variety of industrial products. W.W. Grainger distributes more than one million industrial products, from supplies to equipment and tools. The short list has electrical devices, fasteners, fleet maintenance equipment, hand tools, hardware, janitorial, lighting, office supplies, power and plumbing tools, and safety, security, and test instruments. Its some two million customers are contractors, maintenance and repair shops, manufacturers, and commercial, government, and educational facilities. Grainger sells through a network of branches, distribution centers, catalogs, and websites.
About 80% of Grainger's sales are made in the US, with the rest in Canada, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. With locations in all 50 states, the US business has about 370 branches and some 15 distribution centers.
Grainger's US business is its largest operating segment. The segment's product lines include lighting and electrical equipment, power and hand tools, pumps and plumbing, and cleaning and maintenance supplies. Acklands-Grainger, the company's core Canadian business, focuses on distributing industrial and safety products via about 180 domestic branches and distribution centers.
Besides a wide range of products Grainger also provides services that include inventory management and energy efficiency assistance for lower maintenance costs. The company's KeepStock program offers on-site services and vendor-managed inventory. Since the program's launch in 2006, KeepStock has grown to serve more than 14,000 customers at 30,000 installations.
Despite the breadth of its portfolio and increasing presence in developing regions, Grainger's sales rise and fall with the health of North American industrial production. As the economy picks up currently, businesses have been expanding the kind of inventory Grainger supplies. Accordingly, Grainger's year-over-year sales increased 12% in 2011 from 2010 while gross profit rose by more than 16%. Sales to heavy manufacturing customers led the growth, followed by light manufacturers. Such customers account for some 27% of Grainger's sales.
Grainger occasionally pursues business acquisitions and joint ventures that promise sustainable opportunities and broaden its offerings. In 2012 Grainger expanded into the Brazilian market with the acquisition of maintenance, repair, and operating supplies provider AnFreixo from Votorantim.
In 2011 it bought Fabory Group, a European distributor of fasteners and other maintenance and repair supplies. The $344 million acquisition bolstered Grainger's presence across Europe and in China, where Fabory served a growing network of customers.
In 2011 the company closed about 35 branches, reflecting more shipments from distribution centers and fewer counter and will-call purchases. Also that year Grainger opened a distribution center in northern California. Most sales consist of private label items under Grainger's trademark: Dayton (motors), Speedaire (air compressors), Westward (tools), and Condor (safety products), to name a few. – less