Sales through June and July fell 14%, as ecommerce-focused MSC said COVID-19 continued to cause declines in sales of its core industrial supplies in the first two months of its fiscal fourth quarter.

As the impact of the coronavirus continues to slow the manufacturing activity of customers who buy its metalworking and industrial equipment, ecommerce-heavy MSC Industrial Supply Co. is weathering the ongoing hit to its core sales in its fiscal fourth quarter, which runs through this month.

“During fiscal July, the company’s non-safety and non-janitorial product lines continued to see significant declines versus the prior year due to the impact of COVID-19 and significant declines in manufacturing activity,” MSC said yesterday in reporting its latest sales figures. “In particular, industrial customers with exposure to end markets such as aerospace, automotive and heavy equipment were extremely soft.”

MSC said total sales fell year over year by 12.6% in July to $233.3 million, and by 14.0% for June and July combined, to $507.5 million. It didn’t break out figures on ecommerce sales, which the distribution company says usually account for more than half of total sales and comprise transactions through its websites, including MSCDirect.com, and via internet-connected vending machines and electronic data interchange.

But in a statement released last month for the fiscal third quarter ended May 30, MSC said ecommerce sales fell by 11.4% and noted that the decline was “primarily related to the higher volume of safety and janitorial products not transacting through our ecommerce platforms,” adding: “The percentage of ecommerce sales excluding safety and janitorial products remained relatively consistent with prior quarters.”

On a Q3 earnings call, president and CEO Erik Gershwind said MSC will increase its reliance on ecommerce and other digital technologies to deliver value to customers.

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For July, MSC said total sales of safety and janitorial lines “remained positive for the month in the double-digit growth range.” It added that “gross margins are performing as expected, inclusive of the seasonal contraction typical of the fiscal fourth quarter.”

In addition to metalworking products and services, MSC focuses on supplying maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) products and services that companies use to run their factories and other facilities.

The company has been reporting monthly sales trends throughout the pandemic, a schedule it will continue “until the heightened uncertainty caused by COVID-19 diminishes,” it said yesterday.

MSC’s formal corporate name is MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc., but it generally goes by MSC Industrial Supply Co., the name of its primary business unit.

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