Grainger welcomed more than 12,000 attendees in February to its annual Grainger Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

“An event like this for Grainger showcases the types of products, solutions, services and expertise we offer customers,” said Deb Oler, Grainger senior vice president and president, North American Sales and Services.

In its 14th year, the 2018 Grainger Show featured approximately 700 suppliers on more than 450,000-square feet of trade show floor space. The show included seminars and workshops on workplace safety, operational efficiency, healthcare facility management, food safety regulations, emergency preparedness, energy efficiency and digital technologies used in manufacturing.

Customers also learned more about the Grainger’s offerings in safety, inventory management, e-commerce, facility services, metalworking and consulting services at solution centers throughout the show floor.

Interview with CEO

In a Monday morning press roundtable, Grainger CEO DG Macpherson talked of an “improving demand environment,” and said he was “pretty optimistic” about 2018. “The economic headwinds are better than in the last couple of years in industry,” he reported.

In 2017 Grainger sales to $10.4 billion in revenue (with $8 billion coming from U.S. sales – a five percent jump). Sales in 2016 were $10.1 billion. Fourth quarter ’17 sales were up seven percent. Net earnings for the year were down six percent. Grainger is forecasting 2018 sales to be between three to grow seven percent.

Grainger’s CEO chalked up growth to “normal industrial cycles” and revived oil and gas and manufacturing activity.

Other highlights of Macpherson’s 45 minutes with about a dozen reporters:

• Grainger pricing got too high, with a focus on larger customers, so the company has restructured pricing for mid-size companies especially. “We had priced ourselves out of some markets,” said Macpherson.

• Safety products account for 17 percent of total Grainger sales. That’s about $1.25 billion in safety sales. “Safety is an anchor and baseline for getting in the door,” said Macpherson. “Everyone agrees safety is important.”

• Grainger sees online sales only growing. More than 50 percent of sales now come from, and Macpherson said he envisioned that number climbing to 75-85 percent in the next five years.

• The company is “pretty bullish” about its branch network of about 250 stores in the U.S. The business is stable, said Macpherson, with branch customers walking into stores because “they need something now.”

• Grainger trimmed 150 branches outside the U.S. in 2017. The overall number of bricks and mortar stores will remain the same in 2018.

• The “Amazon narrative” is “clearly present,” said Macpherson, “so the company is really focused on delivering a value add, solutions, and managed inventory. We can’t do what Amazon does, but we can create value for customers. There is a technical aspect for much of what we sell.

• Grainger is totally focused now on organic growth and for the next 12-18 months. “If acquisitions happen, they happen,” said Macpherson, but that’s not a priority.

Grainger is a supplier of  maintenance, repair and operating products (MRO), with operations also in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

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