While MSC Industrial Supply's sales fell in its fiscal first quarter, the fact that they declined only 3.3 percent in the current industrial environment was a positive, according to Erik Gershwind, president and CEO.
"Our performance in the face of this challenging environment is highlighted by three things," he said on a call with investors to discuss the results. "First, continued share gains as indicated by growth rates well ahead of the market; second, sustained gross margin stabilization from solid execution on both the buy side and the sell side; and third, continued strong expense controls and realization of the benefits from our productivity initiatives."
Gershwind noted that most of the segments served by MSC "have deteriorated over the last few months." And while the company has very little direct exposure to oil and gas, the indirect exposure – customers with exposure – is having a significant impact. "It's ugly," he said.
That said, there are "pockets" of strength, including commercial and aerospace.
In addition, e-commerce sales continued to grow, reaching 57 percent of sales for the quarter, up from 54.5 percent a year ago. And sales to vending customers also continued to increase, adding "roughly 50 basis points of growth," Gershwind said.
"Economic slowdowns are the times when MSC makes its greatest strides," he said, because competitors are feeling the same pressures, opening the door to opportunities to grab even greater market share.