Grainger Making Big Push in Protective Footwear

After integrating the acquired distributor Safety Solutions, Inc. during 2014, Grainger will add 14 more shoemobiles this year and as many again next year, company leaders said.

ORLANDO -- Safety professionals and purchasing managers can expect to see and hear a lot more from Grainger about protective footwear from now on. A consistent theme in briefings by company leaders, including President and CEO Jim Ryan, during #GraingerShow 2015 here was the value of recently acquired distributor Safety Solutions, Inc. and how Grainger will expand that company's shoemobile network, which is currently based in large cities in the eastern half of the United States.

Ryan was telling trade magazine editors during a Feb. 16 briefing about Grainger's strength in eCommerce, which now brings in $3 billion of Grainger's $10 billion in annual sales, and discussing its impact on the company's branch network, when he brought up Safety Solutions.

"More and more people are buying through that [eCommerce] channel, so there has been some shift away from branches because of that. We don't need as many branches in the U.S. as we did five or ten years ago," he added. But in the next breath, he said Grainger's commitment to deliver its products the same day as the order or the following day does require branches, and the branches are a great way to support services such as Safety Solutions' protective footwear, Ryan added.

Nino Granatiero, vice president of marketing and safety at Grainger, said the company now has 53 safety specialists in the field to assist customers, up from 14 only a year and a half ago. He also said Grainger is about to roll out a safety matrix tool to its sellers to give them assessment and survey tools to use during visits to customer sites. Customers increasingly are asking distributors such as Grainger to handle such tasks, several company leaders said.

Granatiero said Grainger will deploy 14 more shoemobiles this year to expand Safety Solutions' network and currently plans to add another 14 in 2016. And an expansion to serve Southern California, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington state is planned, company officials said here.

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