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That annual rate target was quite doable in the growth markets of the past decade. But Grainger has to make more than trim-tab adjustments to the ship to get there in this decade. It has to change some of the crew to get it where it needs to go, but more importantly, it's changing the way it trolls for dollars. Where it has historically been great at fishing the surface effectively an inch deep and a mile wide, this announcement indicates a renewed focus on its pervasive branch network and higher service levels through a sales force that has an account book of a few hundred or less rather than in the thousands. It's getting out the hook lines as well as using the big nets.
Pulling it off is always another story. But the company is arguably more focused today than in the recent past. It's going after its big catalog competitors to gain some share, but it is aiming squarely at its other primary competition ﾖ the smaller independent and regional players who have been much better at providing local service and better, deeper understanding of what each customer's headaches are.
That translates into finding and training people who can effectively win, service and penetrate accounts, and not disappear six months later to a new job or new market. The company will have more feet on the street, and has to be more aggressive opening doors in accounts where they traditionally have not budged on margins. But the best service will win.