Driven by its fulfillment of orders backlogged in March and April, the industrial products distributor today said its fiscal May net sales increased by about 6% over a year ago, mitigating earlier losses in its fiscal third quarter.

In a breath of fresh air amid the pandemic, MSC Industrial Supply Co. experienced a welcomed uptick last month, the company said today.

In the latest in a series of monthly sales reports MSC is issuing during the pandemic, the prominent distributor of metalworking and maintenance, repair and operations products (MRO) and services said preliminary, unaudited figures indicated that fiscal May sales increased by 6.3% year over year to $269.6 million. May marked the third month of MSC’s fiscal third quarter, when sales decreased by 3.6% to $835.0 million, the company said.

By comparison, the May sales increase was in sharp contrast to declines in fiscal March and April, when net sales fell year over year by 7.8% and 10.5%, respectively. As a result, net sales for the quarter fell by a relatively small 3.6%. MSC, which didn’t break out ecommerce figures for May, does more than half of its sales through ecommerce channels, including, internet vending machines and electronic data interchange.

MSC said the increase in May sales was primarily in safety and janitorial products, many of which had backlogged orders from the prior two months. In its last monthly report, MSC said its backlog in orders for the March-April period reached “well above $100 million;” now, the backlog is about $100 million, still above historical levels, the company said today.

Closed customers return to business

In other product areas, MSC noted mixed results in May. “Orders and invoicing for non-safety and non-janitorial product lines continued to see double-digit declines versus the prior year,” MSC said, adding, “although average daily sales rates improved at a modest rate through the month of May, as some previously closed customer sites began reopening.”


On another positive note, MSC said its gross margins “continued recent trending and remained solid through the quarter.” In its report last month, MSC said it had “seen solid gross margins through fiscal March and fiscal April” on the “strong realization of its mid-year price increase” and as a result of initiatives it carried out with its suppliers earlier in its current fiscal year, which began in September 2019. MSC’s formal corporate name is MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc., but it generally goes by the name of MSC Industrial Supply Co., its primary business unit.

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