The diversified distributor, which sells through several ecommerce sites as well as physical stores, says it finished 2019 with strong B2B auto parts sales while industrial and office products fell in the fourth quarter.

Genuine Parts Co., a multibillion-dollar distributor with an extensive ecommerce presence, finished 2019 with full-year sales up 3.5% year over year to more than $19 billion, as it benefitted from an 8.7% spike in global fourth-quarter sales of auto parts.

Paul Donahue, chairman and CEO, says revenue growth under the company’s flagship NAPA brand is being driven mostly by sales to commercial customers through the NAPA AutoCare Center network of repair shops and the Major Accounts group of commercial customers including corporate and government fleets, auto parts and tire merchants and repair services chains.

Increasing sales to fleets and repair chains

“Sales to our NAPA AutoCare Center and Major Account customer segments continue to drive our commercial sales growth,” Donahue said on a fourth-quarter and full-year 2019 earnings call with investment analysts last week, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.

GPC’s Automotive Parts Group, which accounted for 59% of Q4 sales, was the only one of GPC’s three product groups (which also include industrial and business office products) to show a profit in the fourth quarter.

The Automotive Products Group includes GPC’s North American flagship NAPA Auto Parts business, whose ecommerce sites include NAPAOnline.com, NAPACanada.com and, for Mexico, NAPA Auto Partes. NAPA also operates 57 distribution centers and sells through 6,000 NAPA auto parts stores, including 5,000 that are independently owned by store operators, and more than 16,000 automotive repair and auto body shops.

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GPC also supports its automotive clients with such tools as NAPA PROLink and NAPA TRACS, software tools available as desktop applications or mobile apps. PROLink lets repair shop and fleet management personnel order parts online for express delivery directly from their local NAPA store. NAPA TRACS is an online shop-management software system that helps auto repair shops order parts and manage inventory, manage customer job estimates and invoices, and analyze their business’s profitability.

The Automotive Parts Group also includes Repco, which sells to customers in Australia and New Zealand through Repco.com.au. GPC also sells through automotive retail stores and distribution networks across these markets and in Europe.

Industrial products sales fall 6%

GPC’s other two product groups, industrial and business office products, each had declines in sales during the fourth quarter.

GPC said sales at its Industrial Products Group, which operates under the Motion Industries brand through MotionIndustries.com and a North American network of branches, fell by 5.9% during the fourth quarter to $1.48 billion though increased by more                               6% for the full year to more than $6 billion.

Motion Industries, whose ecommerce site carries more than 1 million parts, sells products ranging from ball bearings and industrial pumps to chemicals and cutting tools to more than 200,000 customers, including original equipment manufacturers and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) facilities.

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Sales fall at office supplies distributor S.P. Richards

In GPC’s Business Products Group, sales fell by 6.3% to $428 million and accounted for 9% of total revenue.

The Business Products Group is comprised mainly of office products distributor S.P. Richards Co., which operates a dealer services portal at SPRDealerServices.com. GPC had planned to merge S.P. Richards with rival distributor Essendant Inc. in 2018 before Essendant accepted an offer to be acquired by Staples Inc. The aborted merger is still the subject of a court battle.

The fourth quarter marked GPC’s second full quarter with its investment of an 87% stake in Australia-based Sparesbox, which sells auto parts online and which Donahue has described as that country’s “leading online automotive parts and accessories business.”

While not material to GPC’s financial results, he adds, Sparesbox’s strength in ecommerce “serves to enhance our understanding of the digital marketplace and grow our sales capabilities in Australasia and potentially across all of our global operations,” he said on a third-quarter 2019 earnings call with stock analysts, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, Genuine Parts reported:

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  • Net sales increased year over year by 2.2% to $4.71 billion;
  • Automotive products sales increased by 8.7% to $2.80 billion, as profit for the automotive segment inched up 0.7% to $200.65 million;
  • Industrial products sales fell by 5.9% to $1.48 billion, as segment profit fell by 3% to $126.9 million;
  • Business products sales fell by 6.3% to $428.06 million, as segment profit fell by 46% to $14.0 million.

For the full year ended Dec. 31, Genuine Parts reported:

  • Net sales increased by 3.5% year over year to $19.39 billion;
  • Automotive product sales increased by 4.4% to $10.99 billion, as profit for the automotive segment dropped by 2.8% to $830.36 million;
  • Industrial products sales increased by 3.6% to $6.53 billion, as segment profit increased by 7.1% to $521.83 million;
  • Business products sales fell by 1.8% to $1.88 billion, as segment profit dropped by 12.4% to $77.73 million;
  • Net income fell by 23.4% to $621.09 million; the company attributed the decline to restructuring and other costs.c

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