For the five public bellwether distribution companies that break out actual or at least some digital sales or ecommerce metrics, 2022 won’t be a breakout year for digital sales.
But it will accelerate a shift that makes it an even bigger priority to serve an increasingly digital-first customer. For many of these bellwether public distributors — Fastenal Co., Global Industrial, MSC Industrial Supply Co., MRC Global Inc., W.W. Grainger Inc. and Watsco Inc. — digital sales are now the dominant (or close to becoming the dominant) sales channel. Digital sales are those that occur through ecommerce, electronic data interchange, e-procurement, and marketplaces.
For example, MRC is close to the day when 50% of all sales will be digital. MRC distributes pipe, valve and fitting products and services to the energy and industrial markets. At Grainger, sales for the first half of 2022 grew to $7.48 billion. That’s up 19% from $6.29 billion between January 2021 and June 2021. In recent years, Grainger has said B2B ecommerce represents about 60% or more of total sales. Based on those figures, Grainger’s total first-half ecommerce sales were about $4.49 billion. That’s up 21.9% from about $3.77 billion a year earlier.
Big distributors post strong digital sales halfway through 2022
And if the first six months of 2022 are an indicator of how distributor B2B ecommerce will fare for the rest of the year and into 2023, it will be steady to strong but not blockbuster.
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