MSC Industrial Direct's latest Safety Products Catalog launch is part of its strategy to further penetrate existing customer accounts, according to Erik Gershwind, MSC's senior vice president of product management, marketing and strategy.
The interest in safety products has been building in our customer base for the past few years," Gershwind said. "We definitely saw a demarcation point after 9/11. Our customer base has a heightened sense of awareness of keeping the workplace safe and protecting the well-being of their employees."
Gershwind told MDM that penetration of existing accounts was a key growth strategy for the industrial distributor, based in Melville, NY. The company is also planning to grow its business into new customer and product segments.
"Our customers are dealing with many suppliers, so there continues to be market share opportunities in existing accounts," he said. "It's one of the most exciting opportunities we see. The safety initiative is one example of that."
Gershwind said MSC aims to go deeper inside an organization, tapping the end-user, the purchasing director and the safety director or champion whose responsibility is safety at the facility.
MSC's newest safety products catalog features 40,000 products, a 50% increase in SKUs since the company's first safety catalog released in 2005. The distributor broke out a separate safety products catalog that year in response to customer demand.
A portion of the SKU increase was from new products, Gershwind said. "A lot of the additions were taken from elsewhere in our offerings to make it an easier shopping experience for our safety buyers." Customers are asking not only for safety products but also safety-related products, such as hand soap, in the same place, he said.
Customers are also "raising the bar" for their suppliers, he said. "Distributors need to do more than sell products. They need to help customers proactively address problems in the business." For example, MSC created a "wellness kit" in response to customer demand for product that would help to prevent illness, and in turn cut down on employee absences due to sickness.
A kit may include products such as hand sanitizer or soap and safety masks with instructions on when to use the product provided and how to avoid getting sick. The focus there is on prevention and being proactive, rather than reaction.