‘W.W. Grainger Inc. weathered a tough year in 2016, as a drop in demand and little leverage to raise prices sent net earnings into a downward spiral amid weak sales growth.

“In 2016 we faced a challenging demand environment compounded by a lack of inflation, which put pressure on revenue and gross margins,” CEO D.G. Macpherson said today. Net earnings for the year fell 54.2% to $68.34 million from $149.07 million in 2015, as sales inched up 1.6% to $10.14 billion.

There was better news on the e-commerce front. E-commerce sales increased 16.4% to $4.76 billion from $4.09 billion in 2015, as e-commerce accounted for 47% of total sales, up from 41%, a spokesman says.

Grainger doesn’t break out e-commerce sales by its e-commerce sites, which include its flagship site Grainger.com, Canada-based AcklandsGrainger.com, MonotaRO.com in Japan, and Zoro.com, Grainger’s off-price site for the U.S. market. But it noted that sales in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 were strong at Zoro and MonotaRO, which were the primary contributors to an 11% increase in sales in Grainger’s Other Business unit. Zoro also operates a site in Canada at ZoroCanada.com. Grainger’s Other Business unit also includes online and offline sales to customers in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Grainger reported:

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Total net sales dipped 0.3% to $2.471 billion from $2.478 billion in the year-earlier quarter;

Gross profit declined 1.0% to $989.69 million from $1.00 billion;

Net earnings fell 54.2% to $68.34 million from $149.17 million.

For the full year, Grainger, No. 35 in the 2017 B2B E-Commerce 300, reported:

Total net sales increased 1.6% to $10.137 billion from $9.974 billion in 2015;

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Gross profit fell 2.8% to $4.11 million from $4.23 million;

Net earnings declined 19.4% to $632.84 million from $785.17 million;

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