Is Grainger’s Latest Online Move the Right One?

Gamut.com soft launched in early May targeting engineers and maintenance.
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With the launch of Gamut.com, Grainger once again expands its presence on and investment in e-commerce. But with all of the other moves the company is making to shore up its online presence, is launching a new site the right move?

The site's official launch is still a few weeks away, according to Joseph Micucci, director of media relations for Grainger, but it was soft launched at the beginning of May "as an R&D initiative." According to the company's LinkedIn page, Gamut was founded in 2015.

The site was designed with engineers and maintenance professionals in mind, people "faced with technical and complex projects that may be unique in nature," Micucci noted in an email.

Gamut.com – which is noted as "a Grainger company" even though the site's FAQ says it is a separate company "backed by Grainger" – features more than 400,000 products compared to Grainger's 1.6 million. Orders made through the site are fulfilled by Grainger.

But some things about the new site are raising questions for analysts and others.

When navigating through the product categories, brand names are absent from many of the listings. Instead, the focus is entirely on the product specifications. Only by clicking on the price do you see the branded packaging – including the company's private label, Gamut Approved.

While this may be good for the purchaser, manufacturers may be less pleased by the lack of emphasis on product brands.  Some product categories do currently divide the listings by manufacturer, so there may still be changes coming on this.

While the site is clean and easy to navigate (in many ways, more so than Grainger.com), it also raises another question. With Grainger's focus on price alignment on its brand platform, does this introduce another element of self-competition online? Grainger already targets smaller customers with lower prices through Zoro Tools, and the company announced earlier this year it would be accelerating its price realignment initiative for web prices on Grainger.com. How does Gamut's "everyday no-haggle prices" approach fit into that strategy?

Grainger declined to provide more detail until Gamut.com's official launch (expected in June).   

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