Grainger Raises Outlook After Strong 2Q Sales & Margins - Modern Distribution Management

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Grainger Raises Outlook After Strong 2Q Sales & Margins

The industrial distribution giant's results seemed to outperform the rest of the sector, with a sequential revenue growth slowdown more subdued than what others have reported in this earnings cycle.

Industrial and MRO supplies distribution giant Grainger reported its 2023 second quarter financial results on July 27, showing another strong quarter for the company despite what appears to be a slowdown across most of the industry.

Chicago-based Grainger posted total 2Q23 sales of $4.18 billion, up 9.0% year-over-year and up 2.2% sequentially from 1Q23. 2Q23 sales were up 10.1% year-over-year on a daily, constant currency basis.

While the 9.0% overall 2Q growth rate was a sequential slowdown from 1Q’s 12.2% growth, it was far less substantial than what other industrial distributors and manufacturers have shared in this earnings reporting cycle.

In an initial view of Grainger’s 2Q23 financials, Baird’s Industrial Distribution Equity Research unit noted: “From a sales perspective, GWW again outpaced targeted outgrowth vs. the U.S. MRO market despite normalizing supply chain.”

Grainger’s 2Q23 gross profit of $1.64 billion was up 14.0% year-over-year, with gross margin of 39.3% up 170 basis points (down 60 bps from 1Q). The company’s 2Q23 operating profit of $661 million jumped 23.5% year-over-year ($680 million in 1Q) and operating margin of 15.8% expanded 190 bps (down 80 bps from 1Q).

The company posted a 2Q23 net profit of $470 million, up 26.5% year-over-year (down 3.7% vs. 1Q23).

With $15.2 billion in 2022 revenue, Grainger appeared on nine of MDM’s 2023 Top Distributors Lists (of 17), including No. 1 for Industrial Distributors (for an eighth straight year) and No. 1 in MRO.

“The team delivered another strong quarter of performance, as overall demand remains reasonably steady, and we show up well with our customers,” said D.G. Macpherson, Grainger Chairman and CEO, in the company’s 2Q23 earnings release. “Across the business, we continue to invest in our team members and operations, including the recent announcement of our new Northwest Distribution Center, all while producing great results at the top and bottom line.”

By business segment in 2Q23:

  • High-Touch Solutions-North America: Total sales of $3.36 billion were up 9.9% year-over-year. The company attributed revenue growth primarily to continued price realization and solid volume growth. 
    • Gross margin of 15.5% expanded by 200 bps year-over-year, which the company attributed primarily to sustained freight and supply chain efficiencies and favorable product mix. 
    • Operating margin grew 230 bps year-over-year to 17.9%, while operating profit jumped 26.0% to $600 million.
  • Endless Assortment: Daily sales were up 4.5% year-over-year (10.1% in daily, constant currency). The company attributed revenue growth by new customer acquisition across the segment and enterprise customer growth at Japan-based MonotaRO. 
    • Gross margin expanded by 50 bps year-over-year, driven by price realization and freight efficiencies at MonotaRO, offsetting unfavorable product mix at Zoro.
    • Operating margin dipped 10 bps year-over-year to 8.5%, while operating profit of $65 million grew 3.8%.

Looking forward, Grainger raised its 2023 full-year sales outlook — which had held steady in its 1Q23 report. The company now expects 2023 net sales of between $16.4 billion and $16.8 billion, raising the lower end of that range from previously $16.2 billion. Grainger raised the lower end of its sales growth percentage outlook more considerably, from 6.6% to now a range of 8.0% to 10.6%. Likewise, the lower end of its daily sales growth guidance was raised from 7.0% to now a range of 8.5% to 11.0%.

Meanwhile, Grainger maintained its guidance for gross profit margin of 39.1% to 39.4% and operating margin of 15.2% to 15.7%.

Other 2Q Notes

The 2Q earnings report follows Grainger’s aforementioned July 12 announced that it plans to open a new 500,000-square-foot distribution center in Gresham, Oregon sometime in 2025 and boost the company’s capacity in the Pacific Northwest.

Earlier in 2Q, Grainger leased over 525,000 square feet of warehouse space at the Carolina Logistics Park in Pineville, North Carolina.

Also in 2Q, Grainger released its 12th annual ESG report on July 10; and announced June 8 that it has expanded its educational tuition reimbursement program to include part-time staff. 

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